Wikland was born in Tartu, Estonia and raised in Haapsalu, Lääne County on Estonia's Baltic coast. In 1944 she escaped with the family of a classmate from the second Soviet occupation of Estonia, to Sweden. She arrived in Sweden as a refugee.
In 1953 Wikland applied for a job as illustrator at Rabén & Sjögren. She was met by Astrid Lindgren, who had just finished writing the book Mio, my Son and who could see immediately that Wikland was able to “draw fairytales”. Wikland did a test-drawing for the book and after that her collaboration with Astrid Lindgren continued. Wikland has said that Astrid’s writing continually makes her see inner pictures. She also derives inspiration for her pictures from real life. In the same way that Astrid Lindgren wrote for “the child within her”, Wikland often also draws for the child within her.
Ilon Wikland is the artist who has illustrated the greatest number of Astrid Lindgren’s books:
- The Six Bullerby Children (a.k.a. The Children of Noisy Village)
- The Children on Troublemaker Street
- The Brothers Lionheart
- Mio, My Son
- Nils Karlsson Pyssling
- Ronia the Robber's Daughter
- Seacrow Island
- The Ghost of Skinny Jack
She has also provided the illustrations for many picture-books by Lindgren and many other writers, including The Dragon with Red Eyes, I Want a Brother or Sister, That’s My Baby, Brenda Helps Grandmother, Simon Small Moves in, and The Borrowers.
In 2004 Ilon Wikland decided to gift her original illustrations to Estonia. The artwork was originally exhibited in Wikland's gallery in Haapsalu, Estonia. In 2009 "Ilon's Wonderland", a gallery and theme centre for children and families based on her works and illustrations, was opened in Haapsalu, Estonia.
- Ilon Wikland at AstridLindgren.se
- Iloni Imedemaa, or Ilons Wonderland, museum in Haapsalu, Estonia
- I Draw, Therefore I Am (2009) – documentary film by Kim Finn and John Hakalax
- on YouTube
- Soome produtsent ja lavastaja John Hakalax räägib Ilon Wiklandi eluloofilmi saamisloost
- Ilon Wikland at Library of Congress Authorities, with 45 catalogue records
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