The defiance of Tove Jansson, mother of Moomins


ASK any Finn of their fondest childhood memory, and it is likely to involve the Moomins in some way. The affable, hippopotamusesque little trolls adorn collectible mugs, confectionaries, linens and anything worth branding, but they are also a key part of their native Finland’s national identity and cultural consciousness. For Tove Jansson, their creator, what started as a way to escape the horror and anxiety of the second world war turned into an accidental empire. A new retrospective at the Dulwich Picture Gallery—the first major show of her work in Britain—reveals the full breadth of her artistic output.   

Many of the pieces on display have never been exhibited outside Finland. A prolific painter, illustrator and caricaturist, Jansson built her worlds in her attic studio in central Helsinki or in her cottage on the island of Klovharu in the Gulf of Finland. The show opens with her early self-portraits as a young woman in the 1940s. Drawn to the vibrant aesthetic of Matisse and other impressionists, she was…Continue reading

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Redeeming Mary Magdalene

EVERY generation of artists has brought its own sensibilities and experiences to the depiction of canonical Christian stories. Giotto, an Italian painter, set Bible scenes in medieval Tuscany. Rembrandt gave his a hint of mercantile 17th-century Amsterdam. “Mary Magdalene” is similarly a retelling of some of the faith’s main events …

The mysterious reggaeton bangers of Mexico’s election

FOR evidence that modern democracy has lost its pep, look back to the age of cheery campaign jingles. The art form dominated elections from America to the Philippines after the second world war. Australian political parties used them well into the 1980s. It is tempting to believe that melodious campaigns …

The maddest March: at last, a 16-seed upsets a number one

THE line separating the improbable from the impossible is hard to pin down. The annual single-elimination tournament to crown the champion of North America’s National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in men’s basketball is known as “March Madness”, thanks to the steady diet of upsets it produces. Every year, a few …