Christmas cards by Tove Jansson
Tove Jansson drew many kinds of cards during her career – greetings cards, Easter cards, cards with animals, or as in the case of the ones presented here: Christmas cards.
What would a Christmas greeting by Tove Jansson look like? The Christmas cards shown below are an example of her style in the beginning of the 1940s, when she created dozens of cards for various holidays, often painting aquarelles at an astonishing pace.
Making postcards provided a welcomed source of income during various stages of Jansson’s life. She also took on other forms of applied arts, such as commercials, posters, and packing materials in order to secure her income at various stages.
“…I was seeing trolls and angels everywhere as if in delirium”
Compared to many other commissions, postcards were relatively quick to produce, straightforward to sell, and, in the mind of the artist, easily transferable into funds for travelling.
Jansson wrote the following to her friend Eva Konikoff in a letter in 1942:
“I have a new series of Christmas cards behind me – The Centre for Art Cards raised their original offer of 300 marks each to 1000, so I could not refuse. Four series a year, Koni, that means 40,000 marks. And, quite apart from what I get from painting – it means both Brittany and Italy – America! – perhaps Bali sometime … if the money retains its value.”
“I can do a card a day if I work nonstop, calmly – and one and a half if I work non-stop wildly. I’ve just done two a day for the last week – by the end of which I was seeing trolls and angels everywhere as if in delirium”, she continued, as quoted in Boel Westin’s biography Life, Art, Words.
The cards Tove Jansson referred to in this letter were most probably the cards presented here. They are part of a collection of 18 Christmas cards, many of which feature traditional Nordic Christmas imagery.
The cards were published in 1942 by Taidekorttikeskus, a publishing house for art cards. Earlier that year, Jansson had created a series of humorous animal cards as well as Easter cards featuring animals in human attire.
Many of these Christmas cards feature either animals or mythical fairytale creatures.
In one of the cards, three Christmas gnomes prepare winter feeding for birds – something many Finns do every winter.
Another card displays a bunch of gnomes with an elk – sometimes referred to as the king of the forest in Tove’s native Finland. Elks are not a very usual Christmas card motive in Finland, where the most widely featured Christmas animal must be the reindeer, a native animal in Lapland in the country’s northern part.
As is often the case with Tove Jansson, the postcards are rich in storytelling, but without words. The audience can make up their own narratives, fed by Jansson’s charming imagery.
A third card depicts a serene setting with an angel descending upon a small cabin in the snow-covered woods. A figure is heading towards the little cottage through high snowdrifts.
We see the figure from behind, and it’s hard to say if it’s a male or a female figure – perhaps it’s Father Christmas himself?
Want more Tove Jansson Christmas greetings? In this article, you can read a Christmas letter Tove Jansson wrote in 1963, taking on the role of Santa Claus answering all the children who wrote to him. Santa Claus writes about his solitude, Christmas gift plans and his desire for peace for everyone.
The Christmas letter was originally ordered by the Finnish newspaper affairs office as a reply to all the letters that children around the world were writing to Santa Claus in Finland.
For more of Tove Jansson’s visual art, visit the gallery section at www.tovejansson.com.