Tove Jansson’s Studio

Sadly, this is off limits to the public. I will try my best to be allowed in one day though! It’s around a 10 minute walk from Helsinki city centre, located on the corner of Ullanlinnankatu and Kasarminkatu. This was where Tove lived and worked until she died.

Images and text are from Drawn and Quarterly.



‘I really had no idea what to expect. I’ve seen photos and even videos from years ago but I figured we were looking at a different place. Maybe a mansion in the nicest part of town or something?’



‘Well, it’s clearly marked by a Viktor Jansson (Tove’s father) sculpture of a young Tove and plaque.’ The text says something like ‘Tove Jansson lived here 1944-2001, author/writer in union’.



‘Turns out it’s an apartment building and Tove’s studio and apartment are located on the top floor. As we walk up, we all get noticeably excited. This seems impossible that we could be here.’



‘The courtyard view from the sixth floor stairwell.’



‘We all kind of apprehensively step across the threshold in the apartment.’



Here are Tove’s notes. I can see that she has a note saying ‘112’ which is the number for emergencies in Finland. She also has a WWF sticker – World Wildlife Fund. There is a number for a taxi, and pictures of what I assume are of Klovharun/Klovhäran/Klovharu – Tove Jansson’s island which she built in 1964-65 and where she spent a lot of time. The note with blue and red letter says something like ‘Lämna dej inte nervös’ – don’t be nervous, and something about ‘födelsedag’ which is birthday.
The note next to this says ‘Fä’ then something, then ‘Finland’ – Fä means beast.



‘A bit of history (from Sophia’s introduction to the studio and living space): Tove bought or moved into the studio in 1944 after seeing it a couple of years before and knowing she wanted to live there. She then lived there for the next 57 years–the rest of her life. There is no real kitchen, just a wood burning stove for cooking and heating in the studio and heater in the entry room. Those are her actual notes on the wall.’



‘The apartment was pretty small. Tove wrote in the front area, painted in the studio, and slept upstairs in the loft area. There were modifications over the years but the studio is largely untouched (a paint job or two and the renovation over the years was done by her girlfriend Tuulikki’s brother, Reima–a famous Finnish architect) in the ten years since Tove’s death. The books she read are on the shelves. Her bed, her vanity, knick-knacks on bookshelves and windowsills, sculptures.’



‘Juhani Tolvanen tells a charming anecdote about after Tove quit smoking she loved when he visited because he usually had a cigar in his pocket and she got to smell the cigar smoke. Trust me, this guy loves cigars.’ Juhan Tolvanen wrote Tove Jansson’s biography, which has been released in Finland and France so far.



‘Finland used to have a number of lighthouse boats to direct traffic. This model was built by Tove and her family when she was a child.’



‘Her father’s sculptures (actually plaster studies for the later bronzes) placed around the studio. The models are Tove and her mother but with different faces. And that painting is a very early pre-WWII self portrait by Tove. Oh, and there are here pallets.’



‘Look at these hand lettered books. We were asked not to touch things so I actually ran back downstairs to ask Sophia if she knew what they were and she quietly said “oh, go look at them.” Turns out they were strip collections assembled by Tove’s mom, Signe, from the stats sent from the syndicate.’



‘I don’t know what this is but I swear it’s Tove’s handwriting?!?’
This definitely looks like Tove’s. Some of my Finnish/Swedish speaking friends have helped me to try and decipher what it says: ‘Lassen/Lasse’s – possibly nicknames for Tove’s brother, Lars Jansson. It could also possibly be ‘loma’, meaning holiday. Another word there could mean ‘layout’. ‘Hvitträsk’ – Tove Jansson had a private exhibit here in 1974, so it could be referring to this.



‘Fanmail.’ I might send a letter to her studio and see what happens!



‘Here is tiny alcove where Tove’s bed resides.’



‘Her vanity.’



‘Knick-knacks and Moomin toys.’



‘The fireplace that heats the studio. And the little stove on top is pretty much the extent of Tove’s kitchen.’



‘Sophia told us a sweet story that Tove’s girlfriend, Tuulikki Pietilä, also had an apartment and studio in the building and they used to cross through the attic to visit each other. In fact, Tuulikki lived there until she died in 2009. {In the background, we see Anja Luginbuhl from Editions Moderne and Morgan Charpentier from Les Requins Marteaux.}’



It is almost impossible to work out what these books are – I can see three Franz Kafka books at the right, one is most likely ‘The Trial’, and the bright yellow one nearer the left is ‘Min Skattkammare’.


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4 responses to “Tove Jansson’s Studio”

  1. says:

    _Tove Jansson’s Studio – Moomin Mania_ was a superb posting. If it owned a lot more pictures it might be even a lot better. All the best -Wade

  2. […] od siebie, natomiast bardzo polecam wpis na zaprzyjaźnionym blogu Adele – Moominmania – Tove Jansson’s Studio, gdzie można sobie dokładnie obejrzeć, jak pracownia Tove wygląda […]

  3. Paulina Birchall says:

    That was very moving and revelatory for me. I have read all the Moomin books plus the Summer Book and Sculptor’s Daughter – these last two long before their re-issue; so to see your pictures of her Helsinki Studio was fascinating and a great comfort. It felt like she was still in the world for us. Thank you, I am very grateful for these photographs.

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