The Beginner, 1959

During the 1960s, Tove Jansson held several solo exhibitions and also changed her signature. Previously, she had signed her work ‘Tove’, now she began to use ‘Jansson’. ‘Tove’ had become synonymous with ‘Mother of the Moomins’, while ‘Jansson’ was free of such connotations.

The Beginner exemplifies Tove Jansson’s rebirth as a fine artist. Compared to her identity-building self-portraits of the 1940s, this painting is characterised by a distinct sense of self-effacement. The artist who was once known for her strong use of colour has now mellowed into a more restrained palette. This portrait does not challenge the viewer, it does not provoke or grapple with you. Instead, through it, Tove views her role as a graphic artist and illustrator from a peaceful distance. The work calmly shows the everyday working life of an artist whose productivity is ultimately based on diligence.

The name of this piece reveals Tove’s continual need for renewal in her life. Even though she already had a lengthy career behind her, she naturally refers to herself as a ‘beginner’. Her private life also offered her the ingredients for renewal. One of the most important stories of Tove’s life began in the mid-1950s when she met her life partner, the graphic artist Tuulikki Pietilä.