The Biggest Show on Artist Tove Jansson, Who Created the Beloved Fairy-Tale Character Moomin, Is Opening in Paris

The show stages never-before-seen artworks and objects from Jansson.

Unnamed and undated work showing Jansson with her Moomin characters. Photo courtesy Moomin Characters.

You can’t help but think Tove Jansson might have preferred a quieter sort of exhibition. Solitude came naturally to the Finnish cartoonist and writer, less so the celebrity delivered by her globally beloved Moomin books. This reclusive tendency was best evidenced in the summer-long pilgrimages Jansson began making in her 50s to Klovharun, a tiny island in the Finnish archipelago that offered privacy and isolation in place of electricity and running water.

Nonetheless, Jansson’s Estate has decided to stage one of the largest exhibitions exploring her oeuvre and legacy in Paris—and during the hubbub of Paris Fashion Week and Art Basel Paris to boot. The location is not entirely incidental. In her 20s, Jansson studied painting in the city, ditching the Ecole des Beaux-Arts for a small studio and then trying, and largely failing, to gain recognition as a painter.

This makes “Houses of Tove Jansson,” curated by Parisian art institution The Community, a homecoming of sorts, one that presents Jansson as far more than the quirky mind behind a lovable family of fairy-tale trolls.


Tove Jansson, Landscape (c. 1930s). Photo: Tove Jansson Estate.

Across the five floors of 16 Avenue Foch, visitors will meet all of Jansson: an artist who followed the currents of the 20th century in her Impressionist and Abstract paintings; a writer of novels, poems, and radio plays; and perhaps most importantly, a queer woman with a pacifist bent who bucked the norms and expectations of her era. It is, as Thomas Zambra, a great nephew who manages Jansson’s legacy, puts it, her whole life story. And yes, that includes the Moomin.

“We aim to keep her work alive and relevant, ensuring that her legacy continues to inspire and delight future generations,” Zambra told Artnet News. “We believe we can offer audiences a new way of seeing and experiencing her work.”

One aspect of this new approach has involved inviting contemporary artists including Emma Kohlmann, Ida Ekblad, and Vidya Gastaldon to create new work that engage Jansson’s aesthetic universes and ethos. The artists were selected by The Community and encouraged to create whatever they saw fit, trollish or otherwise.

Tove Jansson

Tove Jansson painting. Photo: Tove Jansson Estate.

The main focus, however, is the artistic trajectory of one of the most famous cartoonists in history, one that will satisfy newbies and die-hard fans alike. Born in Helsinki in 1914 to a father who worked as a sculptor and an illustrator mother, Jansson’s creativity was evident as a young child. This proclivity is on show in Paris, with early examples of her illustrated storybooks, some of which included fledgling versions of her amorphous trolls.

The range and quantity of Jansson’s work stands out. There are illustrations for children’s books, large-scale paintings, merchandise, sketches for opera, set design pieces for theater, and more besides. For visitors needing a breather, The Community has built a reading room holding not only Jansson’s best-known titles but also a recreation of her personal Helsinki library.

Fittingly, the exhibition devotes space to the archipelago in which Jansson spent her summers and presents objects from her everyday life including the handmade Moomin flag that flew above her Klovharun cottage. This recreation of physical spaces is the thinking behind the show’s name, the show’s curators Sini Rinne-Kanto and Tuukka Laurila told Artnet News. “We address the importance of different spaces to Tove Jansson, places she felt at home, such as on the island.”

See more images from the show below.


Tove Jansson, Smoking girl (Self portrait) (1940). Photo courtesy Tove Jansson Estate.

Moomin characters

Tove Jansson, Little My Paperdoll (undated). Photo courtesy Moomin Characters.

Tove Jansson

Tove Jansson, Summer Island (undated). Photo courtesy Moomin Characters.

Jansson sketch

Tove Jansson, Unnamed (undated). Photo courtesy Tove Jansson Estate

Lynxboa. Oil painting by Tove Jansson in 1942. © Tove Jansson

Tove Jansson, Lynx Boa (Self-portrait) (1942). Photo courtesy Tove Jansson Estate.

My Papedoll

Tove Jansson, Little My Paperdoll (undated). Photo courtesy Moomin Characters.

“Houses of Tove Jansson” is on view at 16 Avenue Foch, 75016, Paris, France, from September 29–October 28.


More Trending Stories:

Was Roy Lichtenstein an Appropriation Artist or Plagiarist? A New Documentary Probes the Ethics of His Multimillion-Dollar Comic Art Empire

The Dealer Who Sold the World’s Most Expensive Coin Has Been Arrested for Falsifying the $4.2 Million Artifact’s Provenance

What I Buy and Why: New York Collector Larry Warsh on His Early Eye for Basquiat, and the Octogenarian Artist He’s Coveting Now

87-Year-Old Artist Barbara Kasten on How Her New Career-Defining Monograph Shows She’s More Than Just a Photographer

Hito Steyerl on Why NFTs and A.I. Image Generators Are Really Just ‘Onboarding Tools’ for Tech Conglomerates

Art Industry News: Rishi Sunak Says There Are ‘No Plans’ to Return the Parthenon Sculptures to Greece + Other Stories

Is This Rolls-Royce the Most Extravagant Car Ever? Designed by Iris van Herpen, It’s Iridescent, Has a Signature Scent… and the Cosmos Inside

Generative Art Sensation Tyler Hobbs Has Filled His Debut London Show With Old-Fashioned Paintings—Painted by a Robot, That Is

The Final Sale of Masterworks From the Collection of Late Microsoft Founder Paul Allen Could Fetch $43 Million at Christie’s

A Wall Street Billionaire Shot Himself in His Family Office. His Death Is Reverberating in the Museum World, and the Art Market

Researchers in Vietnam Discovered That Two Deer Antlers Languishing in Museum Storage Are Actually 2,000-Year-Old Musical Instruments


Read the Year’s Most Popular Stories:

After More Than 50 Years, Reclusive Artist Michael Heizer Is Finally Ready to Unveil ‘City,’ His Life’s Work. Here’s What It Looks Like

A College Grad Paid $75 for an Illuminated Manuscript Page After Realizing It Was From a 700-Year-Old Prayer Book He’d Studied in Class

A Man Broke Into the Dallas Museum of Art and Smashed Ancient Greek Artifacts Because He Was ‘Mad at His Girl’

Scholars Have Decoded the World’s Oldest Sentence Written With an Alphabet. It’s a Highly Specific Warning… About Lice

A College Student Bought a $10 Ashtray at a Goodwill. Turns Out It’s a Yoshitomo Nara—and He Flipped It for a 30,000 Percent Profit


‘It’s My Damaged Rembrandt’: New Book Asserts a Downgraded Portrait of the Dutch Master Is the Real Deal

Introducing the 2022 Burns Halperin Report

Possibly the Oldest Pair of Levi’s Jeans, Salvaged From an 1857 Shipwreck, Just Auctioned for a Deep-Pocketed $114,000

Mr. Brainwash, Made Famous in the Banksy Documentary, Opens His Own Art Museum Where Guests Enter Through the Gift Shop




Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.