Magical Moominvalley

Fri 29 Oct 2010 by Alan (Fred)_Pipes

Fred in Magical Moominvalley

It may be a trip too far for most BiG members, but if you love the Moomins, there's a great exhibition on in Bury, Greater Manchester. I was already Up North to visit relatives and enjoy the East Lancs Railway Autumn Steam Gala. On my regular visit to the local Art Gallery, I noticed them setting this up so wandered along a day or two later to have a proper look. It's a big exhibition, with three galleries showing Tove Jansson's work from early illustrations for the satirical Swedish magazine Gar, though the Moomins, to illustrations for Alice in Wonderland and The Hobbit. One room aims to capture the magic of  The Moominvalley of the Tampere Art Museum, dimly lit with pools of dappled light with Moomin boats and islands of stepping-stones.

Author and illustrator Tove Jansson (1914-2001) was born in Helsinki, Finland, the daughter of artist Signe Hammarsten (known professionally as Ham) and sculptor Viktor Jansson. Her mother designed many of Garm's covers, and Tove carried on the tradition, and it was in these 1930s illustrations that the philosophical Moomins first appeared. The first Moomin book 'The Moomins and the Great Flood' appeared in 1945, in Swedish, was not a great success but the following two 'Comet in Moominland' (1946) and 'Finn Family Moomintroll' (1948) made her famous worldwide. She produced eight books in total that have been translated into 34 languages. In 1954, after the second Moomin book had been translated into English, the Evening News, a newspaper for the London area (no longer in business) published a strip called Moomintroll until 1959, when her brother Lars Jansson took over the strip until 1975 (there are no examples of the strips in this exhibition). She also illustrated The Hobbit in 1962 and Alice in Wonderland in 1966, with some of the illustrations coloured with watercolour. The pen and ink drawings in the exhibition are tiny - they must have been drawn same size - and it is a delight to see such lovely work, along with the pencil marks and touches of process white!

If you fancy it, I got to Manchester from Euston for £7.25 from the Virgin website; and Brighton to London for £2.50 from Southern. Bury is at the end of the Manchester tram line.