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Touko Valio Laaksonen (1920-1991)

December 16, 2019

 Copyright Touko Valio Laaksonen

 

 

Touko Valio Laaksonen (1920-1991)

 

Better known by his public moniker

Tom of Finland was a Finnish artist

known for homoerotic and sadomasochistic

drawings.

 

Touko began to draw as a child and

was aware of his homosexuality

at the time. 

 

During World War II he served in the

Finnish Army.  From 1940 thru 1944

Finland was an ally of Nazi Germany.

Wermacht troops were stationed all over

his native land. He was fascinated

and aroused by what he saw as the

beauty in the German uniforms.

Later he admitted he hated the Nazis

and resented their presence but was

aroused by their garments.

 

In the early 20th Century gays were too

often portrayed as weak, passive, docile

and androgynous in popular culture.

 

Laaksonen sought to show another side

by drawing macho figures. 

 

He loved to draw soldiers, sailors, lumberjacks,

construction workers, police officers, bikers and

leathermen.

 

He was enthralled by hypermasculine movie characters

such as Marlon Brando and fellow bikers in On The Waterfront.

He also loved the 1950s teddy boy trend which was

popular among British working class teenage males.

 

It was in his spare time while in the service that

he drew explicit drawings in his spare time.

 

In 1956 he submitted his first drawing to an American

magazine.  It was the rag Physique Portal.  During that

decade censorship laws were still very strict.  While

his drawings to that publication were somewhat tame

at the time it was one of the few places he could display

his talent without causing trouble. 

 

Up until 1968 when pornography was decriminalized the States

he would use the practice of placing his work in brown paper

bags and sending them clandestinely to stores and underground

publications.

 

In 1962 the US Supreme Court Case MANual vs Day ruled

male nudity was not obscene.  This allowed some freedom at the

time for artists and photographers to work.

 

As time passed and censorship laws became more lax it was easier for

him to work.  In 1973 he quit his job at the Helsinki office of the

advertising firm McCann-Erickson.  By this time he had established

such a following it allowed him to work full time as an artist.

 

He even developed a friendship with American photographer

Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989) and the German publishing house

Taschen.

 

In the late 1960s he created a comic strip character name Kake who was a

gay male prototype of his drawings who had many erotic adventures.

 

Two notable publications featuring his work are

Daddy and the Muscle Academy-the Art, Life and Times

of Tom of Finland and

Tom of Finland the Pleasure of Play.

 

He is mentioned in the Encyclopedia of Gay and Lesbian Culture.

 

In 1984 the Tom of Finland Foundation was created to give a

better understanding of both gay and gay S&M culture.

The Foundation has a home in a residential section of

the Silverlake section of Los Angeles. The center of offers

tours for a small fee where patrons and see examples of his

work and donate to keep his legacy alive.

 

Original works by Laaksonen can be seen at the Leather Archives

and Museum in Chicago.

 

In the USA his work has been exhibited at the Los Angeles County

Museum of Art, New York City Museum of Modern Art, Art Institute

of Chicago and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

By coincidence the above mentioned cities have been the major

metro areas for the commercial BDSM/fetish industry.

 

Tom of Finland drawings have been seen in museums in London,

Paris, Amsterdam and Stockholm. 

 

In film he and his work have been depicted in the 1991 documentary

made in 1991 by Filmitakomo about his Muscle Academy book from

the 1970s and in 2013 Finnish filmmaker Dome Karukowski made

a biopic about Laaksonen which was released in 2017.

 

In 2014 the Finnish Postal Service Itella Posti released thre

stamps featuring his work.  They became the more purchased

of Finland stamps by collectors worldwide in history.

 

In 1991 Laaksonen died of a stroke brought on by

emphysema.

 

To learn more about him and his work see

www.tomoffinlandfoundation.org.

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