Any mention of Pippi Longstocking immediately conjures up for most of us the picture of the freckled girl with red plaits. Then come all the wild things Astrid Lindgren wrote about her. The image of the strongest girl in the world is absolutely clear and compelling. But whereas the author gained world fame, the illustrator, Ingrid Vang Nyman (1916 – 1959) was quite unknown when the Vejen Art Museum put on the first exhibition ever of her lifework in the year 2000. Why in Vejen? you might ask.
Pippi’s illustrator was Danish. Ingrid Vang Nyman’s family on both the paternal and maternal side were an integral part of the history of Vejen and its environs. There was an intellectual freedom here, thanks to Askov High School just down the road. This was established in 1865 under the inspired leadership of Ludvig Schrøder on what was until 1920 the southernmost edge of Denmark after the loss of Southern Jutland to Prussia in 1864. Combined with local drive and against all odds, it even led to the building of an art museum in a town of only 3,000 inhabitants. This drive was finely personified in Johannes Lauridsen, founder of various local companies, including Alfa Margarine. He was headhunted for the post of director of the Danish National Bank. He was Ingrid Vang Nyman’s grandfather. She was very close to her family and lies buried in Vejen.
Asiatic Meal. 1948 Lithograph. 270 x 358 mm. Signed bottom left ‘VANG’. Bequest 2008 from the estate of Kirsten Vang Lauridsen. Photo © Vejen Museum of Art
The Vejen Art Museum has quite miraculously acquired a fairytale: the free artistic heritage of Ingrid Vang Nyman. Her side of the family became extinct on the death of her son Peder Nyman, an illustrator for the Danish newspaper Politiken, in 2001, and her sister Kirsten in 2008. Due to the terms of Kirsten Vang Lauridsen’s will and through a significant donation from Swedish translator and editor Gallie Eng, Vejen has the world’s largest collection of Ingrid Vang Nyman’s work, including paintings, freehand drawings, lithographs, a textile collage, busts and ceramics such as a chess set where the knight is a forerunner of Little Buddy, Pippi’s horse.
A brief biography
Ingrid Vang Nyman grew up on Gramgård, a farm run by her parents 25 kilometers south of Vejen. When her father contracted TB, she was also infected. He died in 1923. She was sent off alone to recuperate in Italy, and her childhood, like her two sisters’, was very unsettled. She briefly attended the National Academy of Art in Copenhagen in the mid-1930s where she met and married the Swedish artist and writer Arne Nyman. Their marriage was short-lived. However, she settled in Stockholm, where she had various illustration commissions.
In 1945, the publisher Hans Rabén got the inspired idea of asking her to illustrate the then equally unknown writer Astrid Lindgren’s story of Pippi Longstocking. The outcome was a global success. What is so seldom has come to fruition: the children’s story with its inimitable interaction of text and pictures is still alive and kicking more than 70 years after its first publication! It is particularly interesting that the illustrations have been given more and more room in later editions.
Towards the ends of the 1940s, Ingrid Vang Nyman was commissioned extensively to do illustrative work, and she must have worked non-stop. She showed the strains of a chaotic life, a wild character and a sledging accident, among other things, and she returned to Denmark in the 1950s and received treatment. She chose to put an end to her life on St. Lucy’s Day in 1954. What remains is a unique production, which contributed to revolutionizing Swedish illustrated books. Over and above this in Vejen is the artistic production of a whole life, demonstrating all the other aspects of an enquiring and experimental artistic mind – her virtuoso portrait busts, her experiments with lithography, ceramics and other materials, as well as her works on paper. She was especially interested in foreign peoples and wild animals. Towards the end of her life, she became totally absorbed with the blue Birds of Paradise. You can read more about them in the companion volume to the exhibition.
Pippi Cleaning the House with Mr. Nilsson. Poster paint on cardboard. 107 x 156 mm. Signed bottom left VANG. Donation 2004 by the artist’s sister Kirsten Vang Lauridsen Photo © Vejen Museum of Art
A centennial exhibition and a book about Ingrid Vang Nyman
To celebrate the centennial of the artist’s birth, an exhibition was opened on her birthday, Sunday the 21st of August 2016, presenting the whole of the museum’s Ingrid Vang Nyman collection and loans from private collections and Swedish printing houses. The exhibition ended in a room dedicated to an instructive Ingrid Vang Nyman landscape for play. The Japanese pavilion, a reconstruction of the artists flat in Stockholm, Pippi’s kitchen, her veranda and garden with her horse in full scale were an immense success. Guests begged the museum to keep this area for future use – and so it came about that the Ingrid Vang Nyman landscape is a permanent fixture, a place where families hang out and have great fun!
Cock out for Fun. Undated Ink, coloured chalk and watercolour on cardboard. 502 x 328 mm Donation 2012 by Gallie Eng Photo © Vejen Museum of Art
The museum has published a book in connection with the exhibition, charting Ingrid Vang Nyman’s story seen from a Danish Vejen perspective and providing a meticulous documentation of the collection. There are contributions from anthropologist Inger Sjörslev with a take on Ingrid Vang Nyman’s interest in ‘the foreign’ as seen in the lithographic series ‘Children in East and West’. Ethnologist Bodil Grue Sørensen writes about Ingrid Vang Nyman’s illustrations for women’s magazines, and Janni Andreassen, expert on Peter Freuchen, investigates aspects of the illustrator’s fascination with Greenland.
The exhibition and book have been produced with help from The 15th of June Foundation, the Beckett Foundation and the ANT Foundation. We are grateful for the generous help, which made it possible to produce the best possible presentation of this unique lifework.
Cover of Astrid Lindgren’s ‘Pjäser’Poster paint and ink on pasteboard. 370 x 211 mm. Donation 2004 by the artist’s sister Kirsten Vang Lauridsen Photo © Vejen Museum of Art
Ingrid Vang Nyman, Pippi-illustrator, with her son Pelle Photograph ca. 1940-1941. Photo © Vejen Museum of Art
Stylized Birds with Accessories Ink, watercolour, coloured chalk on board. 348 x 328 mm Donation 2004 by the artist’s sister Kirsten Vang Lauridsen Photo © Vejen Museum of Art
Bird Cliff with Two Eskimo Children Lithograph. 203 x 259 mm Donation 2004 by the artist’s sister Kirsten Vang Lauridsen Photo © Vejen Museum of Art
Studies of Faces of Japanese Girls and Women. Undated Black ink and watercolour on washi. 415 x 374 Donation 2004 by the artist’s sister Kirsten Vang Lauridsen Photo © Vejen Museum of Art
Greenlanders. 1948. Lithograph. 270 x 362 mm. Signed bottom right VANG Bequest 2008 from the estate of Kirsten Vang Lauridsen Photo © Vejen Museum of Art
Gypsies. 1948 Lithograph. 267 x 364 mm. Bequest 2008 from the estate of Kirsten Vang Lauridsen Photo © Vejen Museum of Art
Landscape in the Skerries. 1944 Pencil and watercolour. 346 x 468 mm. Signed bottom right in pencil VANG 44 Donation 2012 by Gallie Eng Photo © Vejen Museum of Art
Reproduction rights to the works of Ingrid Vang Nyman are administered by Saltkråkan in Stockholm: www.saltkrakan.se