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  Tom of Finland  (1920 - 1991)

About: Tom of Finland


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Lived/Active: Finland      Known for: homoerotic and fetish art

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BIOGRAPHY for Tom of Finland
1920 (Kaarina, Finland)
1991 (Helsinki, Finland)


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homoerotic and fetish art

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Tom of Finland (birth name Touko Laaksonen) was born on May 8, 1920  into a middle-class family in a southwestern Finland area Kaarina near Turku, where he spent his childhood years.

In 1939 he moved to the country's capital Helsinki to study advertising, he also started drawing erotic images for his own pleasure.  He was conscripted in February 1940 into the Finnish Army.  He served as an anti-aircraft officer, holding the rank of a second lieutenant.  After the war, in 1945, he returned to studies at the art college.

In 1956 Laaksonen submitted drawings to the influential American magazine Physique Pictorial which premiered the images in the Spring 1957 issue under the pseudonym Tom, as it resembled his given name Touko; he was also featured as the cover artist with an illustration of two log drivers at work.  The editor of the magazine credited them to Tom of Finland.

Laaksonen's work had predominantly been segmented to private collectors and collections seen only by consumers who sought out the underground gay pornography industry.  With the decriminalization of male nudity gay pornography became more mainstream in gay cultures.  Laaksonen's drawings also came to the attention of mainstream gay communities, and by 1973, he was both publishing erotic comic books  and making inroads to the mainstream art world with exhibitions.  In 1973 he gave up his full-time job at the Helsinki office of McCann-Erickson, an international advertising firm.

Many of his drawings are based on photographs, but none are exact reproductions of them.  The photographic inspiration is used, on the one hand, to create lifelike, almost moving images, with convincing and active postures and gestures while Laaksonen exaggerates physical features and presents his ideal of masculine beauty and sexual allure, combining realism with fantasy.  In Daddy and the Muscle Academy - The Art, Life, and Times of Tom of Finland examples of photographs and the drawings based upon them are shown side by side.

In 1979, Laaksonen with businessman and friend Durk Dehner co-founded the Tom of Finland Company, which became the Tom of Finland Foundation dedicated to collecting, preserving, and exhibiting homoerotic artwork.  The company produced a 1991 video biography, Daddy and the Muscle Academy: The Life and Art of Tom of Finland.  By the late 1980s Laaksonen was well-known in the gay world but his "pneumatically muscled, meticulously rendered monster-donged icons of masculinity" received mainstream attention when the film - which includes hundreds of images of his work along with interviews - was shown on Finnish national TV, won a Finnish Emmy in its category and was shown at film festivals worldwide.

Over the course of four decades he produced some 3500 illustrations, mostly featuring men with exaggerated primary and secondary sex traits.  His drawings frequently feature two or more men either immediately preceding or during explicit sexual activity.  Tom of Finland died on November 7, 1991.

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