Perhaps one of the saddest things about the recent surge of interest in Tove Jansson’s paintings is that it came a little too late. All through her life she had craved recognition as an artist, but her work was inevitably overshadowed by the immense success of the Moomins. “Those damn Moomins,” she once remarked. “I don’t want to hear about them any more. I could vomit on the Moomintrolls”.


Her frustration was understandable. Even in her early teens her work had been featured in magazines and in her time as the in-house illustrator for Garm, Finland’s political satire magazine, she contributed over six hundred covers, cartoons, and illustrations.


In 1947, she was commissioned to create two large frescos for Helsinki City Hall: Party in the City and Party in the Countryside, both of which may now be seen in all their glory in the permanent Tove Jansson exhibit at HAM in Helsinki. Much can be read into the pictures; in Party in the City, Tove sits alone at a table whilst her lover is being wooed. But Moomin is there, hidden in plain sight to provide moral support. It wasn’t the first time her signature troll sneaked into a picture and it wouldn’t be the last.