[expositie] Ingrid Vang Nyman – Pippi Longstocking

Ingrid Vang Nyman: Pippi Longstocking
by Annabel Zwagemaker

Ingrid Vang Nyman, a Danish visual artist and illustrator born in 1916, is most well known for her Pippi Longstocking illustrations. She studied art in Copenhagen, and eventually attended the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. In 1945, Van Nyman was commissioned by publisher Hans Rabén to illustrate the first Pippi Långstrump book, written by the then relatively unknown author Astrid Lindgren. 

Pippi Longstocking became famous worldwide, partially due to the powerful illustrations by Vang Nyman. Vang Nyman believed that children’s book illustrations should be of as high quality as illustrations for adults. The illustrations may appear simple to the untrained eye, but they show the skill and knowledge of Vang Nyman. Her distinct style featured strong lines, vibrant colors, and never included shadows. Vang Nyman was inspired by Japanese woodcutting but kept her own recognisable style. Her work told stories that were direct and humorous, but also touching. Vang Nyman depicted children in a new way that challenged the commonly accepted depictions of the time. Instead of perfectly dressed and clean children, Vang Nyman portrayed more realistic children by making them messier and sometimes dirty, but also seemingly happier. 

Tragically, Vang Nyman did not feel recognised enough, as the fees she demanded to be paid for her hard work were often unmet and communication with her publishing house was difficult. She was suffering from mental illnesses, which affected her relations with other people and possibly lead to her committing suicide at the age of 43. While Vang Nyman’s life was heartbreakingly cut short, her legacy remains alive through her illustrations of Pippi Longstocking and her images of a free messy childhood.