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Tove Jansson – Paradise

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The monumental exhibition takes an in-depth look at Tove Jansson’s public paintings, through which she shared joy, beauty and windows into magical worlds of storytelling.

 Tove Jansson: Bird Blue, 1953 (detail). © Tove Jansson Estate. Photo: HAM / Maija Toivanen.

Tove Jansson – Paradise presents the public paintings of Tove Jansson (1914–2001) in unprecedented breadth. HAM’s vaulted halls provide a superb venue for displaying her monumental paintings and their sketches and large-scale studies. The preparatory charcoal studies she drew in actual size are previously unseen by the public, and most of them were unrolled for the very first time for this exhibition.  

Filling two floors of the museum, the exhibition’s main focus is on the ambitious commissions that Jansson completed for public venues in the 1940s and 1950s. It introduces her lesser-known mural output in its entirety, from her smaller decorative paintings to her largest monumental frescoes. Jansson’s public paintings provide a glimpse into the boundless depths of her imagination and the idyllic worlds of fantasy that offered the artist an escape from the horrors of war.

 Tove Jansson: sketch for Bird Blue, 1953. © Tove Jansson Estate. Photo: HAM / Kirsi Halkola.

Jansson’s public paintings date from the postwar reconstruction period. Most of them were commissioned for buildings in her hometown, Helsinki, such as the Tullinpuomi building, the Apollonkatu girls’ school, the Strömberg factory, the Domus Academica student dormitory, the children’s ward at Aurora hospital, and the Helsinki City Hall basement restaurant, which opened as a formal reception venue in 1947.

Jansson painted her labour-intensive public murals during a busy career peak that coincided with her first solo exhibitions at Bäcksbacka’s Konstsalongen gallery and the publication of her first Moomin books. The exhibition sheds light on Jansson’s wartime reality through descriptions of Helsinki and images of the city. It also presents the art and illustrations that inspired her to become a mural painter. Further glimpses into her inner life are offered by a selection of paintings from the Leonard and Katarina Bäcksbacka collection as well as photographs, videos, and a recently completed documentary about her altarpiece in Teuva Church.

The exhibition additionally celebrates 80 years of the Moomins. In 2025, eight decades will have passed since the 1945 publication of Småtrollen och den stora översvämningen (The Moomins and the Great Flood). Jansson embedded Moomin characters as her trademark in many of her murals, and some even feature the Moomins as their gleeful main protagonists.

 Tove Jansson, Niilo Suihko and fresco Party in the City. © Tove Jansson Estate / Per Olov Jansson.

The frescoes Party in the City and Party in the Countryside have been on permanent display in a dedicated space at HAM since 2015. In honour of the Paradise exhibition, HAM will henceforward offer free admission to the museum on Tove Jansson’s birthday, August 9, which is a recommended flag day in Finland and is celebrated as Finnish Art Day. The decision is valid until further notice and applies from 2024 onward.

The Paradise exhibition will be accompanied by a richly illustrated eponymous publication providing a comprehensive overview of the artist’s lesser-known mural oeuvre and related preparatory sketches, complete with images of artworks, additional photographs and a separate image appendix. The book was edited by the exhibition’s curator, HAM curator Heli Harni and freelance author Tuija Huovinen.

The exhibition is produced in collaboration with Moomin Characters Ltd.

Guided tours, art workshops, and other experiences related to the exhibition will be available for booking before the summer of 2024. Stay tuned!

Read more about Tove Jansson at