Remembering Tom of Finland through stories of those who knew him

18th May 2021, 3:31 pm


TOM OF FINLAND Untitled, c.1986, Tom of Finland Permanent Collection ©1986-2021 Tom of Finland Foundation

As a selection of Tom of Finland’s photographs go on show, his friends, lovers, and models provide an oral history of the man behind the myth

Those who had the pleasure of meeting Tom of Finland (born Touko Valio Laaksonen, 1920–1991) may have expected to encounter a walking, talking version of his drawings. Instead, they would have been greeter by a gentle soul, whose Finnish upbringing made him a quiet and reserved individual, who would easily slip into the fantasy world of his homoerotic drawings for hours at a time.

“If you know Finns, and most people don’t, they can be quite quiet,” says Durk Dehner, president of Tom of Finland Foundation. “When I first went to Finland, Tom set up a cocktail party for me at his apartment. His friends started coming while he was arranging cocktails and preparing hors d’oeuvres. We were all sitting in the living room and nobody was saying a word. I was so uncomfortable, I went into the kitchen and said, ‘When are they going to start talking?’ He said, ‘Give them one more drink and they will,’ and that was the case. Of course six hours later I went into the kitchen and said, ‘When are they going to go home?’ That’s Finns in a nutshell.”

Although Tom was unassuming, he was confident and determined to create works of art that would empower and inspire gay men at a time when homosexuality – and very the depiction of it – was criminalised, stigmatised, and misrepresented. Tom’s groundbreaking drawings of bikers and leathermen, which he made from photographs now on view in the new exhibition Tom of Finland: The Darkroom, revolutionised the portrayal of gay men forevermore. “He wanted his history to be in his art,” Dehner says. And so it was – but still many wish to know, what was Tom of Finland really like? Here his friends, lovers, and models reminisce on the man behind the myth.

Tom of Finland: The Darkroom is on view at Fotografiska New York until 20th August 2021.



“TOM OF FINLAND The Darkroom”

30th Apr 2021 – 19th Aug 2021 @ 11:00 am – 9:00 pm – Visitors to New York City museums, art fairs, and art galleries will now be required to show proof of vaccination starting 17th August 2021.     The exhibition consists of photographic portraits which served as reference images for his famed homoerotic drawings. These photographs were confined to Tom of Finland’s home studio and darkroom, displaying […]

The little-known photography of Tom of Finland

  As a new exhibition of Tom of Finland’s photographs opens, Miss Rosen examines this relatively unexplored side to the hugely influential artist’s work     “Tom never thought that anything other than his finished drawings would be of interest or value to the public and his collector base,” president of Tom of Finland Foundation… View Article

The Tom of Finland biography by F. Valentine Hooven

“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: 18th May 2021

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