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Tove Jansson: Work and Love by Tuula…

Tove Jansson: Work and Love

by Tuula Karjalainen, Tove Jansson (Illustrator)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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I'm fascinated by the great Finnish writer Tove Jansson, and I was fascinated by this book. Growing up in an artistic household, she saw herself as an artist above all else. She wasn't terribly political, though some of her lovers were, and she did some excellent satirical covers for the magazine Garm in the 1930s. But after the war, her artistic style was out of tune with the times, and while trying to make a living from her art she discovered that her other skills were sometimes more lucrative: her book illustrations and, of course, the Moomins. I hadn't realised that the Moomins hit the English speaking world big time as early as 1954, when a London newspaper (the Evening News, which merged with the Evening Standard in 1980) commissioned a regular comics strip from her which was widely syndicated. Although she only did it until 1961 (her brother Lars shared the burden from 1959 and took over completely until it ended in 1975) it was a step change in her circumstances.

Tuula Karjalainen's biography looks in detail at her work but also at the way in which Jansson's love life intersected it. Like her parents, her lovers were all creative artists in one way or another - Sam Vanni, Tapio Tapiovaara, Atos Wirtanen, Vivica Bandler and finally Tuulikki Pietilä, immortalised as Too-Ticky in the later Moomin books. Karjalainen is very good at teasing out the direct and indirect influence of Tove Jansson and the people she loved on each other's works - starting when she was still a teenager and modelled for her father's sculptures. Jansson's relationship with Tuulikki Pietilä seems to have been the least dramatic of all, and lasted for fifty years.

The book is beautifully illustrated, as you would hope given the importance of the argument that Tove Jansson's art was crucial to her life; it's a real joy just to look at, with Tove Jansson's handsome figure over the years - always slim and sharp, to the very end - dominating the pages. I think even readers who had never heard of her would enjoy just looking at it. ( )
  nwhyte | Dec 11, 2016 |
Very disappointing. While this book covers Tove Jansson's life, relationships, and development as an artist very thoroughly, I found it disappointing because it lacked context. One thing I knew about her (from Wikipedia) was that she and her family were part of Finland's Swedish-speaking minority, and I wondered if this affected her. But Karjalainen barely mentions it. It wasn't till almost the end of the book that she says it took a long time for the Moomin books to be translated and published in Finnish. Jansson didn’t write them in Finnish, as I'd always assumed. Did that mean Finns saw her as an outsider, not one of their own? I get the impression she's embraced as a Finnish writer in Finland, but I wish Karjalainen had discussed it. Perhaps because a Finn wrote the book there was no need to explain the obvious.
A chapter about the Moomin books, how she came to write them, and how various characters corresponded to people in her life was interesting, but again I wanted context. Were the stories something new for their readers? When I discovered them around 1965 they were unlike fairy tales, science fiction, or the Oz books I'd grown up with. Or were they like other whimsical stories that European readers might have been familiar with?
It's lavishly illustrated with photos of people and of her art, and I enjoyed them. She was a serious painter as well as a great cartoonist and writer. ( )
  piemouth | Jun 26, 2016 |
Tove Jansson was born in 1914 and died in 2001. Tuula Karjalainen's, biography, Tove Jansson: Work and Love focuses mainly on Jansson's development as an artist and how her family and various lovers, first male and then female, influenced that development and her work. She also details how the tumultuous period before and during World War II ( in Finland -- the Winter War, the Continuation War and the Lapland War) affected the artist and her circle of friends and family. One of the wonderful aspects of the book is its many colored reproductions of her paintings, cartoons and illustrations for the Moomin books.

Jansson began her artistic studies and career as a painter, studying at Stockholm's Konstfack and the School of Fine Arts (the the Atheneum) in Helsinki. As her political awareness grew, she began drawing cartoons and illustrations for various periodicals while continuing to paint and show her work. It was during the war that she began the Moomin books as an escape from ugly reality. She said, "I am really a painter, but in the early 1940s, during the war, I felt so desperate that I began to write fairytales."

Karjalainen spends about half the book writing about Jansson's development and involvement with Moominland and about 5 pages briefly commenting on her stories and novels for adults, a choice that I personally found disappointing. But perhaps it is not surprising. ( )
  janeajones | Dec 20, 2015 |
Work and Love were the two most important things in Tove Jansson's life. It was her motto. The order was significant, giving priority to work, for this was a woman obsessed with work. While most LT readers will know Jansson as a writer, she was also an artist, a cartoonist, and an illustrator. Any one of these occupations would have made a career, but Jansson never stopped.

As Karjalainen points out in her introduction, all this makes it difficult to frame a biography, normally a chronological work. What she eventually did was work out a loose thematic framework in tandem with the chronology of Jansson's life.

Tove Jansson was born in Helsinki in 1914. Her parents, a sculptor and an illustrator, belonged to the Swedish speaking minority. She studied art in Stockholm, Helsinki and Paris, returning to Helsinki before the Winter War of 1939-1940 with the Soviet Union. The coverage of World War II and the years following was fascinating. Karjalainen details the Winter War, the Continuation War of 1941-1944 when Finland fought the Soviet Union with German help, and the Lapland War of 1944-1945 when Finland fought Germany. We get a sense of Finland, recently independent, but now occupied and unable to act on its own; a country full of internal refugees, rationing and privation. The difficulties lasted well into the 1950s, as neighbouring Sweden moved light years ahead.

During World War II, Jansson began her most significant heterosexual relationship with Atos Wirtanen, "a driven, passionate politician, preoccupied with world issues and ideologies", and a Member of Parliament. Their affair was well known, but the conventions of the day and Wirtanen's public profile precluded their living together. Just as their affair was winding down, Tove wrote to a friend in late 1946 that she "had fallen madly in love with a woman", Vivica Bandler.

The war years were the start of the Moomin books and cartoon strips. Odd little creatures, the Moomins seemed to come out of nowhere. In 1991, Jansson wrote of their origin: It was the winter of war, in 1939. One's work stood still; it felt completely pointless to try to create pictures.
Perhaps it was understandable that I suddenly felt an urge to write down something that was to begin with 'Once upon a time'.
What followed had to be a fairytale - that was inevitable - but I excused myself by avoiding princes, princesses and small children and chose instead my angry signature character from the cartoons, and called him the Moomintroll.
The half written story was forgotten until 1945. Then a friend pointed out that it could become a children's book; just finish it and illustrate it, perhaps they will want it.

The Moomins were far and away Jansson's greatest commercial success, setting her up financially for life. At the same time, once they became serialized as a comic strip in the 1950s, ultimately reaching twenty million readers, Tove found she had "no time for painting, never mind books, friends, or solitude". After six years, she resigned in 1959 to pursue her "real" art. Tove had had a career as an artist with exhibitions and public commissions before the Moomins took over her life. First and foremost she considered herself a visual artist. In 1960 she started exhibiting again. It wasn't until 1968 that she started writing for adults.

The Moomin years weren't all drudgery though. In 1955 Tove met Tuulikki Pietilä, an artist and the woman who would be her partner until Tove's death in 2001. [Fair Play] is a loving look at this enduring relationship. A person who puts work before love is not an easy person to live with, but luckily for both of them they each were driven to create and understood that in the other.

This is an excellent biography of a complex subject whether you are interested in art, politics, writing or Finland. This edition was lavishly illustrated with photographs of Tove and her art that give a real sense of who Jansson was. There is an elegance in many of the photos, a reserve, that is at first unexpected from the author and illustrator of the Moomins, but Karjalainen does an excellent job of explaining the context for this in Tove's family and personal life. Definitely recommended.
  SassyLassy | Sep 25, 2015 |
Upea, kauniisti kirjoitettu kirja ( )
  mielitekoja | Sep 11, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tuula Karjalainenprimary authorall editionscalculated
Jansson, ToveIllustratormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Lahdenperä, HannaTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
McDuff, DavidTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Lapsi liikahti ensimmäisen kerran.
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This is the definitive illustrated biography of one of the most unique and beloved children's authors of the 20th century, the creator of the Moomins. Tove Jansson (1914-2001) led a long, colourful and productive life, impacting significantly the political, social and cultural history of 20th-century Finland. And while millions of children have grown up with Little My, Snufkin, Moomintroll and the many creatures of Moominvalley, the life of Jansson - daughter, friend and companion - is more touching still. This book weaves together the myriad qualities of a painter, author, illustrator, scriptwriter and lyricist from fraught beginnings through fame, war and heartbreak and ultimately to a peaceful end. Dr Tuula Karjalainen is a Finnish art historian and non-fiction writer who has previously worked as a director of the Helsinki Art Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma in Helsinki. As the author of Tove Jansson's biography, Karjalainen has become an expert not only on Jansson's writing and art but also on her decades of personal correspondence and journals.… (more)

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