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Ilon Wikland’s visual worlds. Fairytales, adventures and everyday life – Göteborgs konstmuseum

25 May 2024-12 January 2025

Ilon Wikland is one of Sweden’s most beloved illustrators. Born in Estonia in 1930, she came to Sweden as a 14-year-old, starting on her path as an illustrator at an early age. She has deeply influenced many generations of children and adults. Ilon Wikland illustrated the Astrid Lindgren books Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter, The Brothers Lionheart, Mardie and Karlsson on the Roof, as well as many of her own picture books. The Gothenburg Museum of Art now presents a major exhibition featuring more than 400 original works. The public is invited to take part of a playful environment that showcases Ilon Wikland’s rich visual worlds and encourages children to explore.

As an illustrator, Ilon Wikland has been at the forefront for over half a century. Thanks to her varied style, which always puts the child’s perspective in focus, her images have set the standard for a plethora of followers in the world of children’s picture books. She started her training directly upon arriving in Sweden and quickly found work for magazines and publishers. Her close collaboration with Astrid Lindgren began in 1954 and continued for many decades. Ilon Wikland has also illustrated the works of other authors such as Mary Norton, Barbro Lindgren and Kerstin Thorvall. Her latest publication is Peter and the Wolf, which came out in 2014, based on Sergei Prokofiev’s classic work.

Ilon Wikland’s visual world contains magnificent castles as well as colourful wooden houses, deep forests and winding paved roads. Several motifs derive from Wikland’s Estonian background and call to mind the picturesque coastal town of Haapsalu and views of Tallinn, where she grew up. Ilon Wikland has recounted the story of her childhood and her experiences as a refugee in her own words. The events she lived through as a teenager remind us in many ways of our own troubled time. With the exhibition, the Gothenburg Museum of Art wishes to call attention to the fact that it is now 80 years since the great exodus from Estonia took place.

Ilon Wikland’s visual worlds. Fairytales, adventures and everyday life is the most comprehensive exhibition of Ilon Wikland’s work in Sweden to date. Here, visitors can see familiar motifs as well as sketches and works that have never been on display before. In a setting where nostalgia and adventure go hand in hand, the galleries become a place where old and young can meet across the generation gap. Step into an enchanted fairytale world, gain a more in-depth understanding of Ilon Wikland’s life and experience a teeming environment with iconic characters and stories!


Illustration: © Design Ilon Wikland AB. Ronja Rövardotter: TM och © The Astrid Lindgren Company.