Ingrid Vang Nyman

The temporary exhibition was shown until the 25th of June 2017

She has red hair, styled in two braids sticking straight out from just above her ears. And she is one of the strongest children around. Most people will immediately guess that it is, of course, Pippi Longstocking – but very few people know who drew the original iconic Pippi.

The Exhibition
Jutish modesty notwithstanding, the presenting of Ingrid Vang Nyman’s (1916-1959) story on the 21st of August 2016 at Vejen Kunstmuseum was quite a sensation. Nyman is the Danish artist, whose most famous work is the illustration of the tales of Pippi Longstocking.

After of a childhood in Vejen and surroundings, a part of Nyman’s youth was spent in Odense, and a period of study in Copenhagen – where she received preparatory art tuition. During a brief stint at the Royal Academy (Kunstakademiet) Nyman met her Swedish husband, the author and painter Arne Nyman. They parted ways in the early years of the Second World War, and in the period 1942-44 Ingrid came to Stockholm through the help of friends and family-in-law. After doing odd jobs such as dish washing, folding lampshades with her friend Le Klint and earning a meagre pay as a model, she found work as an illustrator for newspapers and magazines for women and children.

Ingrid Vang Nyman made her artistic breakthrough late in the summer of 1945. Bonnier’s publishers had an annual competition for children’s books. Nyman was awarded special praise for her unusual illustrations to go with her friend Gallie Åkerhielms’ story Jugga-Jagga och Vagge-Vugge. It is a tale of an odd pairing of a walrus and a jaguar. They make friends and attempt living together in one another’s parts of the world, but have to give up. The story concludes with the couple living happily ever after when they meet in a circus. A highly relevant parable about intercontinental marriages in our contemporary, globalised world!

It is unknown whether it was due to fine praise, but somewhere the publisher Hans Rabén definitely spotted Nyman’s talent and hired her to draw illustrations and cover design for the then largely unknown Astrid Lindgren’s story about Pippi Longstocking. She sent it to Rabén & Sjögren’s 1945 children’s book competition – and won! The book was published in time for Christmas shopping in 1945 and became an instant success in Sweden and the Nordic countries. The Danish translation was published in the beginning of 1946. The book has since been distributed worldwide and through the interconnectivity of its words and images it retains its importance more than 70 years after its initial publication. Besides Winnie-the-Pooh only very few children’s books span much more than a generation.

At the mention of Pippi Longstocking most Scandinavians visualise the world’s strongest girl, Pippilotta Viktualia Rullgardinia Krusemynta Efraimsdottir Longstocking, an unruly, rebellious youth with a curious style of dress with her signature red braids and freckles. The images were just as much a part of Pippi’s life as the stories – in fact over time the images were given more and more space in the Pippi-books. The more you know about Ingrid Vang Nyman, the clearer it becomes that Hans Rabén gave the job to the ideal candidate. She bore an uncanny resemblance to Pippi. She had red hair, was of a gangly build and had freckles. She was of a wild and unruly disposition. When she was young, she left Odense dressed as a cabin boy, and made it all the way to the boarder – aiming for a German port hoping to make her way on adventures abroad! She is also said to have played practical jokes at a scout show. She was to fall in the water and be saved, but she dived under and swam upstream – and surprised them all on returning alive! She went dressed in boys clothing long before it was common for women to wear slacks – and as a grown up she amused children by standing on her head and letting them have all the coins falling out of her pockets. In much the same way as Pippi, Ingrid Vang Nyman blazed her own trail as an independent woman.

In an inverse proportional relationship to the distribution of the Pippi books and the author’s fame, very few people even knew the name of the unique artist who, in the years 1945-53, created thoughtful, meticulous illustrations for children’s books. Today Ingrid Vang Nyman is credited with revolutionising the Swedish children’s book. Her story was first told in earnest from 2000 when The Vejen Art Museum – in concert with Nyman’s son, the illustrator from the newspaper Politiken, Peder Nyman and her sister Kirsten Vang Lauridsen – presented the first exhibition ever about Ingrid Vang Nyman’s life’s work and story. In 2003, the exhibition was shown at Kungliga Biblioteket in Stockholm and at Astrid Lindgren’s Näs in Vimmerby.

Ingrid Vang Nyman’s branch of her family died out, when her son Peder Nyman passed away in 2001 and her sister Kirsten in 2008. Their collection of Ingrid Vang Nyman’s works were willed to the museum. In 2012 the collection was supplemented by a donation from Gallie Eng from Sweden, daughter of the lawyer and author Uno Eng with whom Ingrid Vang Nyman lived in Stockholm in 1944-46. Today The Vejen Art Museum has the world’s largest museum collection of Ingrid Vang Nyman’s art.

The exhibition demonstrates that Nyman was even more than an excellent illustrator. She was also a painter and a talented portrait sculptor, she was captivated by the possibilities of lithography and anxious to learn of the world. Among her ceramic experiments is a chess set with a knight resembling a prototype for Pippi’s horse, Lille Gubban! The exhibition is built up with the museum’s collection as a core, supplemented by works on loan from private owners. A selection of Arne Nyman’s paintings are present to lend perspective to Ingrid Vang Nyman’s works. Her uncle was the arctic explorer and scientist Peter Freuchen, on loan from the Arctic Institute are her portraits of her cousins whom she visited at the Freuchen’s island of Enehøje in the fjord of Nakskov. Astrid Lindgren’s publishing company Saltkråkan has lent seven frames with some of Ingrid Vang Nyman’s finest Pippi illustrations. And in October the exhibition was almost doubled in size when a Bonniers Publishers from Stockholm sent her illustrations for three books on loan to The Vejen Art Museum – and three drawings were acquired from a private collection!

Ingrid Vang Nyman’s family was part of the founders of the present day Vejen. Her grandfather, the director of the national bank, founded the Alfa margarine company, was party to the establishing of Phønix producing roofing felt and among many other successful ventures also grew and processed chicory. From early childhood Nyman was frequently in Vejen. At the end of her life she was interred in the family plot at the cemetery in Vejen. For years to come her life’s work will be part of the permanently displayed collection at The Vejen Kunstmuseum.

The exhibition takes up a large part of the museum, and it is built in two parts. The first part deals with Ingrid Vang Nyman’s work as a visual artist with select illustrations. The second part is the playground set at the back of the museum, in the last exhibition room. The playground is designed to capture the spirit of Ingrid Vang Nyman’s depictions of Pippi: Sit on the terrace of Villa Villekulla, walk in the garden, catch octopi and fish in the lake where a rowboat is at the ready, or ride Pippi’s horse, Lille Gubban. The Swedish wood carver, Dag Malmberg, has created the horse in a true-to-life size of 150 cm height. You can also visit Ingrid Vang Nyman’s apartment in Stockholm or walk over the bridge to a Japanese tea pavilion. At the pavillion you can dress in a kimono and experience a culture which fascinated Ingrid Vang Nyman to the extent that she visited the Japanese envoy in Stockholm to obtain permission to draw his children. Her interest in Japan was given perspective in the museum’s latest exhibition about one of Ingrid’s sources of inspiration for Japanese art: The exquisite Japanese woodblock print books. That exhibition will be on show from April 2017 at the art museum in Faaborg. A few of the Japanese books are exhibited with a richly decorated kimono in the part of this exhibition focusing on Ingrid Vang Nyman’s depictions of Japanese subjects.

The Book
In connection with the exhibition the museum has released a new book about Ingrid Vang Nyman. The 272 pages are full of illustrations and lots of new information including five articles lending perspective to her life and work. Ethnologist Bodil Grue Sørensen writes about Ingrid Vang Nyman’s illustrations for the Swedish women’s magazine ”Husmodern”. Janni Andreassen highlights aspects of the artist’s fascination with Greenland – most likely inspired by Nyman’s uncle, the arctic explorer Peter Freuchen. Anthropologist Inger Sjörslev contributes with a perspective on Ingrid Vang Nyman’s interest in ”the other” seen through the lithograph series ”Children in east and west”. Head of The Vejen Art Museum, Teresa Nielsen, has written a chronological biography, an article looking at the artist’s fascination with the Japanese arts and an article about Ingrid Vang Nyman’s preoccupation with the blue and green bower birds. In addition to these articles, Ingrid Vang Nyman’s voice is heard through quotes from letters and an article from 1947 about children’s creativity.

A memorial was unveiled at the station in Vejen on the centenary of Ingrid Vang Nyman, Sunday the 21st of August 2016. It is a bronze cast of an unfired clay auto portrait modelled in 1940-1942. It is set on a base of black Danish granite from the island of Bornholm. She made the portrait while living in Vejen. She left it at “Grønvang”, the family manor in Vejen, and about year 2000 it was given to The Vejen Art Museum along with four other portraits she had modelled. The financing of the monument has been made possible due to many private donations ranging from 50 to 5000 kr.

Financial support – a big THANK YOU!
The exhibition and book have been made possible by generous contribution from:
15. Juni Fonden
Thank you for making it possible to create an optimal
presentation of Ingrid Vang Nyman’s unique life’s work.