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Flags fly to honour Tove Jansson and Finnish art

Sunday marks the first national flag day commemorating Jansson, best known as creator of the Moomins.

Tove Jansson uimassa
Tove Jansson swimming at the summer cottage in Pellinki, near Porvoo, that she shared for decades with her partner, graphic artist Tuulikki Pietilä. Image: Moomin Characters Oy Ltd

The Interior Ministry recommends that Finnish flags be hoisted on 9 August to celebrate the 106th anniversary of the birth of artist and author Tove Jansson, and Finnish art in general. It recommends that flags be flown from 8 am to 9 pm.

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Detail from Jansson's fresco Party in the Country (1947) , now at the Helsinki Art Museum (HAM). Image: Jussi Mankkinen / Yle

“Many of her works deal with themes related to the status of minorities, experiences of being different and acceptance,” according to a statement from the ministry.

"With this flag day we can from now celebrate Tove Jansson’s unique influence on Finnish art and literature, and celebrate the wonderful Finnish art more broadly as well,” Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo (Greens) said.

Books overshadowed art career

Tove Jansson: Näkymä parvekkeelle (1961). Ateneumin taidemuseo.
Jansson, who died in 2001, was also known for paintings such as "View from the Balcony" (1961). Image: Suomen Kansallisgalleria / Kirsi Halkola © Tove Janssonin kuolinpesä

All state buildings have been ordered to raise flags on Sunday.

With books translated into more than 50 languages, Tove Jansson (1914–2001) may be the country's most widely known writer and illustrator.

While best known for her whimsical fantasy books for all ages starring the Moomintroll family and their neighbours, Jansson was also a respected painter and author of more adult-themed novels and short story collections.

Jansson was one of Finland's first openly gay public figures, signalling a new era in 1992 by attending the president's Independence Day gala with her longtime partner, graphic artist Tuulikki Pietilä (1917-2009).

Marking Jansson's centennial in 2014, the City of Helsinki officially renamed a park after her in the Katajanokka district, where the two lived for decades.

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