Touko Valio Laaksonen (1920-1991)
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
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
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
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
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
To learn more about him and his work see