Happy 100 Years: The Tom of Finland Biography

17th September 2020, 4:35 pm


TOM OF FINLAND Untitled (from Kake vol. 19 – “Curious Captain”), 1975, gouache, pen and ink on paper [From the 2020 exhibition Love & Liberation]

Tom of Finland (born Tuoko Laaksonen, 1920–1991), was an iconic and groundbreaking artist who rose to cult status in the international queer community and beyond for his work celebrating the male figure and masculinity during a time when being gay was taboo. “Although he never attended a march or waved a banner at a demonstration, in the second half of the 20th century no one did more for the furthering of gay pride than Tom did,” said F. Valentine Hooven, III. “Many may have forgotten, or never knew, the shameful stereotypes of queer people that were once damn near universally believed and which Tom deliberately combated with each stroke of his pencil.”

Tom of Finland, the artist and man, was born, raised and lived most of his life in his native Finland, dying there in 1991 at the age of 71. I was in my mid-twenties when Tom and I started corresponding back in 1976 and was ripe and ready to experience the messages he portrayed in his works. Tom quickly became the most important person to influence my life to that date. I discovered through his work that I was as much of a man as any of my heterosexual counterparts and that sex and love between men could be a heroic bonding experience  –  not unlike that of Greek and Roman soldiers. 

TOM OF FINLAND Untitled (from “Sightseeing the Guards”), 1973, pen and ink on paper [From the 2020 exhibition The Darkroom]

In Tom, we have a grandfather of sorts to share with younger generations and if Tom were here today his message would be to stay young at heart. (In fact, Tom continued to frequent the leather and dancing scene well into his sixties). Tom would also tell both men and women that when they are in the heat of sexual arousal and they look at that special guy, his cock looks as big and delicious as any Tom ever drew himself. -Durk Dehner

Created in partnership with Tom of Finland Foundation, Tom of Finland: The Official Life and Work of a Gay Hero is a beautifully detailed account full of never, or rarely seen, materials from his archive. The text was completed just a few months before the death of the artist and he was interviewed at length for it — making this book the only fully approved biography of the legend responsible for creating the muscled, mustachioed gay archetype of the 1960s and ’70s. “Tom and Valentine certainly had a great rapport. With both of them having so much trust in each other, and that there is so much in The Official Life and Work of a Gay Hero that is in Tom’s own words, this work truly has a personal, autobiographical feel to it. I am so pleased that we are able to release this special 2020 edition for the anniversary of Tom’s birth,” says Durk Dehner, president and cofounder, Tom of Finland Foundation. “I know Tom would be pleased, too!”








“TOM OF FINLAND The Darkroom”

31st Jul 2020 – 10th Jan 2021 @ All Day – EXTENDED DATES Temporarily closed due to Covid-19 from 23rd November through 25th December.                 And it was to darkened places that gay people were referred, even the ones born late in the first half of the 1900s, since their orientation was criminalised and classified as a mental disorder. […]

Tom of Finland Virtual Exhibition Tour

                  A recorded presentation by one of the co-curators of TOM OF FINLAND: Love and Liberation. “We were so, so proud and excited to be showing the work of gay cultural icon Tom of Finland back in March… and so, so gutted when the coronavirus pandemic meant… View Article

“TOM OF FINLAND: The Official Life and Work of a Gay Hero” releases

  Avant-garde, provocative, subversive and rebellious – Tom of Finland stamped history with his recognizable artistic style. A virtuoso of drawing, he fashioned the silhouette of a new Gay man – strong, confident, joyful and assertive – fully participating in the visibility and recognition of the nascent Homosexual movement. With text authorized by the artist… View Article

Published: 17th September 2020

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