Thursday, 7 April 2011

A few words about Tove

As promised, here's some info about Tove, provided by Agnes Broome, my partner in (Scandinavian) crime.

Tove Jansson (pictured right - source was born on 9th August in Helsinki, right after the outbreak of the First World War, during which Finland declared its independence from Russia. Her parents were both artists; her mother, Signe Hammarsten-Jansson, was a Swedish artist and illustrator and her father, Victor Jansson, a Finnish sculptor. Jansson and her two younger brothers all grew up to follow in their parents’ footsteps; Tove and Lars became painters and illustrators and Jan Olov a photographer.

Tove Jansson, whose artistic abilities were recognised early by her parents, wanted to become a painter from a very young age. In 1929, aged only 15, she moved to Stockholm to study at Konstfack, Sweden’s most respected art college. This was followed by several journeys through Europe and training at several prestigious art schools in France and Finland. Jansson published her first drawing at 15 as well, in the Finnish satirical magazine Garm, for which she continued working as a cartoonist for 25 years. Garm was one of the very few Finnish publications to distance itself from Finland’s foreign policy at the time, explicitly advocating liberal values and criticising fascism and Finland’s involvement with the German National Socialism. Jansson herself drew cartoons lampooning Hitler. During the 1930s and ‘40s Jansson also presented her artwork at several exhibitions, including solo exhibitions, to great critical acclaim. She was soon considered one of Finland’s most promising young artists. During these years she also began publishing illustrated children’s books, for which she used the penname Vera Haij. Her success as a cartoonist for Garm also led to work for other European publications such as the London Evening News.

Jansson shot to international fame following the Second World War with the publication of her first Moomin books, which were soon translated to a number of languages, including English. She eventually, in 1959, officially retired as a cartoonist to focus more on her writing. At first this was limited to children’s fiction and an autobiographical work (Sculptor’s Daughter) but after her mother’s death in 1970, Jansson decided to start writing for adults, even though she never fully abandoned work on the beloved Moomins.

Her long writing career, which encompasses nearly every genre, has been awarded with practically every Finnish and Swedish award available, save for the Nobel Prize. Since 2002, the year after her death, her own prize, the Tove Jansson Award, is every year given to a children’s writer. Throughout her life, however, Jansson never ceased to view herself primarily as an artist and Helsinki is dotted with examples of her public works.

Fair Play, published in 1989, was Jansson’s last novel, followed only by two collections of short stories and an autobiographical work. Tove Jansson died in 2001 after a period of illness.

You can find out more about Tove at the following sites: (radio programme)

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