If you’re someone who enjoys perusing the toilet book section of your local Waterstones you’ll have noticed a trend for all things Danish stacking up over the last few months. There next to the table filled with books about grisly Danish murders, a new Scandi cult of something called ‘hygge’ has appeared. Hygge is a celebration of cosiness – curling up in a pair of warmed socks with scented candles and a paperback book on the go. Ideal Euro escapism for long winter nights made colder by the post Brexit chill.
My personal source of hygge is the work of the Danish artist Ingrid Vang Nyman, best known for her work on Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking and the Children of Noisy Village. At first glance her work could be mistaken for being a bit twee (rather like hygge itself), but spend more time with it and you notice the off-kilter angles, the flat colours and a sense of all pervading oddness. It has that mid-century nostalgia with enough modernist elements to make it still feel completely vibrant.
During her run illustrating for Astrid Lindgren, Ingrid became much in demand and collaborated with a number of authors, including another Swede Ulrika Widmark on the 1947 picture book Pyret och Piff Planterar (Pyret and Piff’s Garden).
Set against a white background with Zen like simplicity, we follow the travails of rosy cheeked pre-schooler Pyret as she goes about planting her own allotment – aided by her faithful black dog Piff.
There are obstacles to be overcome along the way, as blackbirds, chickens, snails and hedgehogs are all intent on invading the plot and making off with plants, fruit and seeds.
Worse is to come with a terrible storm that devastates all Pyret and Piff’s hard work.
This is a story all about perseverance, time and again Pyret and Piff return to the plot to foil the invaders and secure their allotment with more ingenious methods.
Of course it all pays dividends in the end: Just look at the produce of Pyret and Piff’s labours. Proudly displayed and good enough to eat.
Ingrid Vang Nyman would have celebrated her hundredth birthday this year, but tragically she took her own life in 1959. To celebrate this important centenary I’m going to feature some of Ingrid’s lesser known work over the next few weeks and hopefully bring a little hygge into your lives this autumn.
Ingrid Vang Nyman is the subject of a major exhibition at the Vejen Kunstmuseum, Denmark until March 19, 2017 .