Magical Moominvalley

Up in my home town of Bury last week for the East Lancs Railway Autumn Steam Gala and to visit relatives, I always make a point of visiting the excellent Art Gallery and Museum to check out the magnificent Turner, the Royal Lancastrian pottery and all the other Victorian treasures. It pleased me too that the Museum downstairs was at last celebrating the town's industrial heritage of cotton, paper and engineering. On my first visit, the main gallery was closed for rehanging - for a major Tove Jansson exhibition - so I popped back in the week to take a proper look.

It's a big exhibition, with three galleries showing Tove Jansson's mainly pen and ink 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 as Ham) and sculptor Viktor Jansson. Her mother designed many of Garm's covers with its eponymous dog, 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, and 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! The exhibition continues until 15 January 2011.

Some more photos on http://brightonillustrators.co.uk/blog/detail/magical_moominvalley/.

Incidentally, the guard who told me off for taking snaps turned out to be the son of an old Mod friend of mine from the 1960s, Steph Minta!

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.

Magical Moomin Valley

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