Skip to content

Tove Jansson: Party and Play

Start date


End date


Tove Jansson’s frescos Party in the Countryside (1947) and Party in the City (1947) are part of HAM’s collection and permanently on display in the museum. In addition to the frescoes, HAM also presents other works by Tove Jansson in changing installations.

Tove Jansson: Party in the Countryside, 1947 (detail). © Tove Jansson Estate. Photo: HAM / Hanna Kukorelli.

Helsinki City Hall’s new canteen and formal restaurant facility, Kaupunginkellari, opened in 1947. Jansson was commissioned to “decorate its walls”, as was the custom at that time. The commissioner was Deputy Mayor Erik von Frenckell, father of Tove’s good friend and theatre manager Vivica Bandler. 

For the commission, Jansson drafted two large, party-themed wall paintings. After the drafts were approved, Jansson finished the paintings in just six months. Niilo Suihko, who had studied fresco painting in Italy, assisted her at the beginning. Both Party in the Countryside and Party in the City are a combination of the fresco and al secco techniques, and Tove’s father, sculptor Viktor Jansson, was involved in developing their technical implementation. 

Today, the paintings are part of HAM’s collection and they are permanently on public display. The gallery lamps Paavo Tynell designed illuminated the frescos already in their original location in the Kaupunginkellari Restaurant. 

Tove Jansson (1914–2001) was an artistic multi-talent. She was an artist, writer, cartoonist, illustrator and scriptwriter, best known as the creator of the Moomins. In addition to the frescoes, HAM also presents other works by Tove Jansson in changing installations, often with activities especially suitable for younger visitors. 

Healing Play

In Healing Play, you can explore the paintings Tove Jansson made for the Aurora Hospital and take a photo of yourself with the characters in the paintings. You can also stop to admire an animation based on the illustrations from the book Midsummer Madness or put together a jigsaw puzzle made up of large pieces.

View from Healing Play. © Moomin Characters™. Photo: HAM / Sonja Hyytiäinen.

Background information on the artwork Play

In 1955, the City of Helsinki organized an invitational competition for murals to decorate the walls and ceiling of the children’s ward at Aurora Hospital. The brief stated that the paintings on the staircase and in the examination room should portray subjects that appeal especially to children. It was believed that the presence of art performed an important therapeutic function by distracting child patients and reducing their stress during medical procedures.

Tove Jansson was invited to submit a proposal along other noted artists of that era: Gösta Diehl, Erik Granfelt, Erkki Koponen and Onni Oja. Jansson’s proposal ‘Lek’ (Play) provided the most engaging distraction in the opinion of the Fine Arts Committee, who awarded her the commission for the murals on the staircase and in the examination room.

Tove Jansson painted the mural Play at the Aurora Children’s Hospital in 1955–56. Tove painted squirrels on the roof of the EEG room and fairytale characters and moomins in a stairwell.

At the time she painted the murals, 41-year-old Tove Jansson was on the brink of her international breakthrough. The hospital murals were a huge undertaking for the artist, who had completed several large-scale public commissions over the foregoing decade, including the frescos in City Hall’s Kaupunginkellari Restaurant.

In 1997, the children’s ward at Aurora Hospital was relocated to the Helsinki University Central Hospital, where the staircase was decorated with a replica of Jansson’s original murals. Helsinki’s New Children’s Hospital was completed in 2018, featuring Moomin-themed interiors.

Tove Jansson: Play II, 1955. © Moomin Characters™. Photo: HAM / Hanna Riikonen.

Tove Jansson and HAM

The City of Helsinki owns several of Tove Jansson’s paintings, which she made for public space, i.e. buildings in Helsinki. These works are part of HAM Helsinki Art Museum’s collection. Over time, some of these works have been moved from their original location to museum facilities. The collection also includes competition sketches of murals for the Aurora Hospital.

Tove Jansson products in HAM shop

The selection includes books, posters, postcards and puzzles. The products are available at HAM shop at the museum, as well as online.