Tom of Finland’s photographs are iconic but have been mostly unseen — until now

9th June 2021, 9:14 pm


TOM OF FINLAND, Untitled, c. 1966-1990, Cut and pasted paper, photographs, and graphite on paper, Tom of Finland Permanent Collection © 1984-2021 Tom of Finland Foundation

“His mission was to spread joy and spread that sense of freedom of expression.”

It can be hard to remember that there was a time, not so long ago, when depictions of gay men were exceedingly rare. Tom of Finland was a Finnish artist who was well known for his underground erotic drawings of men, which he made from the 1940s until his death in 1991. The drawings — which were illicit for most of his lifetime, as being gay was illegal in Finland until 1971 — also inspired the aesthetic foundation for modern popular gay culture, depicting men in roles that were forbidden at the time in various ways, whether it was serving in the military or having an open relationship.

“Tom’s mission was to spread joy and spread that sense of freedom of expression,” said Durk Dehner, one of the cofounders of Tom of Finland Foundation.

Tom’s drawings were not merely products of his imagination; part of their appeal lay in their intimate expressions, which were drawn from reference photos that Tom took of hundreds of men over the years.

Dehner, along with his partner S.R. Sharp, spoke with BuzzFeed News, about Tom’s long legacy and the current exhibition of his photographs and reference material that is on view at Fotografiska in New York in The Darkroom.

Can you talk a little bit about the Tom of Finland Foundation and how that’s working now to like promote his legacy?

Sharp: We’ve always worked with other artists through emerging erotic artists contests, through art fairs that we’ve done in New York and Los Angeles, and we have drawing workshops here on a monthly basis. We’re all about other artists. That has been our mission almost since the very, very beginning of the Foundation in 1984.




“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 […]

Sexology 101

An online auction benefiting Tom of Finland Foundation Sexology 101   A charitable art auction raising funds for the Los Angeles–based Tom of Finland Foundation which serves to promote, protect and preserve LGBTQIA+ art and artists. Tom of Finland Foundation, founded in 1984 by Tom and his partner Durk Dehner, was established to offer a… View Article

Published: 9th June 2021

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