The Helsinki City Art Museum will put on an exhibition on the work of Ilon Wikland (1930) from the 1950s to the present at its Meilahti galleries. Wikland is known as the illustrator of many of Astrid Lindgren’s beloved stories, including Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter, The Brothers Lionheart, Karlsson-on-the-Roof, The Children of Noisy Village, Lotta on Troublemaker Street and Mischievous Meg. The exhibition will comprise some 170 original works, most of which Wikland created for Lindgren’s stories and for her own children’s books. The exhibition will also include Karlsson’s room and house, in which children can visit. In addition, there are animation equipment, sketches and wax maquettes that were used in the making of the Karlsson film (2002), and also videos about creating animated films. Visitors can also try their hand at making animations themselves!
Born in Estonia, Ilon Wikland was 14 when she fled the Second World War to Sweden, where she continues to live and work. At the age of 23 she met Astrid Lindgren who was looking for someone to illustrate her work Mio, my Son. It was the beginning of four decades of close friendship and collaboration, during which Wikland created the visual characters and locations for many of Lindgren’s works.
Wikland has also illustrated countless other books, the most recent of which was published last year. It is Maarja Taalgre’s Babianen i Munthes trädgård (The Baboon in Munthe’s Garden), a story about the doctor Axel Munthe (1857–1949) who was a sponsor of Swedish artists and friends with many of them, including Carl Larsson. The exhibition also includes illustrations to Wikland’s stories about the dog Sammeli. A work especially important to Wikland is the 1995 autobiographical Den långa, långa resan (The long, long journey, written by Rose Lagercrantz). It is about young Ilon’s journey as a refugee from Estonia to Sweden in 1944.
Wikland’s illustrations combine fantasy and reality. Many of her characters have been inspired by her four daughters and 10 grandchildren. The Estonian landscape also features strongly; the castle home of Ronja is reminiscent of an old castle in Wikland’s childhood Haapsalu and the Medieval towers and squares of Tallinn are feature in the Sammeli books, while the appearance of Karlsson was inspired by a sturdy man pushing a fruit cart, wearing a checked shirt and blue trousers whom Wikland saw in Paris’ Les Halles district. Karlsson to a tee!
The exhibition is organized by Millesgården Museum, Sweden. The principal partner is Hufvudstadsbladet.
Guided tours: Guided tours are arranged free of charge in Finnish on Wednesdays at 17 o’clock and on Sundays at 14 o’clock; in Swedish on Sundays at 15 o’clock. To book a tour at another time, please call +358 9 310 87003; tours in English are available. There is a separate charge for these tours.
Workshops: Animation workshops will be arranged for students, kindergarten groups and those taking part in family events. For bookings and information, please call Educational Curator Kaisa Kettunen, tel. +358 9 310 87054, +358 50 354 9018.