A Moomin Winter’s Eve / Tove Jansson (1914-2001) – Dulwich Picture Gallery

exhibition poster

This year I read the Moomin books for the first time, and I also visited the Adventures in Moominland exhibition at the Southbank Centre. Continuing the theme, Dulwich Picture Gallery announced a Tove Jansson exhibition for 2017-2018, covering her artwork and illustrations from self-portraits to the Moomins and beyond.

Some friends and I booked to attend the special December event, A Moomin Winter’s Eve. This was an after-hours event that offered activities as well as a chance to look around the exhibition. When we arrived – after spending a while waiting for a bus at Brixton – we headed straight into the exhibition before it got too busy.

Tove Jansson (1914-2001) begins with the artist’s early work, striking self-portraits sitting alongside magazine illustration and magical landscapes. Her later work incorporates more traditional painting, before she turned to illustration in a bigger way. I had no idea Jansson was responsible for illustrating Swedish versions of The Lord of The Rings and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – her work is distinctively her own but also clearly captures the atmosphere of the stories.

Then comes her Moomin work, which forms around half of the exhibition. I love her wonderfully expressive drawings of these fantastical creatures, and it was fascinating to see them close up. As the daughter of two painters, Jansson saw herself primarily as a painter even while the world revered her for her work as a writer and illustrator, but while this exhibition helps to paint a wider picture of the artist, she is likely to remain best known for the Moomins. And why not? Her illustrations are certainly classifiable as art, and her books are children’s classics.

pom pom table

After the exhibition, we decided to check out some of the activities. First we went to make flower garlands in a Pom Pom Blossom workshop, run by Pom Pom Factory. We ended up wearing them for the rest of the evening.

My Moomin masterpiece

We then went to join the table drawing Moomin self-portraits. I am certainly no artist, but having a framework of a Moomin silhouette to work on, I managed to produce something passable.

Moomin collage

Finally we went down to the Moominvalley Photobooth, the idea here being to create a collage inspired by Moominvalley and have your photo taken, then superimposed onto your background. Sadly the camera battery ran out while we were making our collage, but it was still great fun.

The exhibition and the evening were lovely and a nice relaxing way to spend a Friday night.

Adventures in Moominland – Southbank Centre

The Adventures in Moominland exhibition at the Southbank Centre, introduced as part of the Nordic Matters festival, has been so popular that it has been extended by several months (it’s now on until 20 August), but when my friends and I booked our tickets we didn’t know that, and all the adults-only slots had sold out. As it turned out, though, our group consisted of only adults in any case.

The Moomins certainly transcend age. I wasn’t a particular fan as a child, but I’ve been reading the books recently, and the combination of gentle humour and wry observation have made me into a fan.

The exhibition, which begins at the Southbank’s Spirit Level, is really more of an immersive tour into the world that Tove Jansson created in her Moomin stories, featuring various environments from her works and the inspirations for them, arranged in a roughly chronological order. You get to see original Moomin pictures from Jansson’s archive, and hear narration by Sandi Toksvig. Our guide was incredibly enthusiastic, taking us deep into the world of Moominvalley, a place one of us quite wanted to leave.

Whether you’re a young or an old Moomin fan, check out this exhibition. It’s an unforgettable experience.