Touko Laaksonen, best known by his pseudonym Tom of Finland (8 May 1920 – 7 November 1991) was a Finnish artist notable for his stylized homoerotic and fetish art and his influence on late twentieth century gay culture.
He has been called the "most influential creator of gay pornographic images" by cultural historian Joseph W. Slade.Over the course of four decades he produced some 3500 illustrations, mostly featuring men with exaggerated primary and secondary sex traits: heavily muscled torsos, limbs, and buttocks, and large penises. Tight or partially removed clothing showed off these traits, with the penis often visible as a bulge in tight trousers or prominently displayed for the viewer. His drawings frequently feature two or more men either immediately preceding or during explicit sexual activity. Nearly all of his characters were versatile and obviously enjoyed the bottom as well as the top role in sexual intercourse.
Laaksonen's work had predominantly been segmented to private collectors and collections seen only by consumers who sought out the underground gay pornography industry. With the decriminalization of male nudity gay pornography became more mainstream in gay cultures, Laaksonen's drawings also came to the attention of mainstream gay communities, and by 1973, he was both publishing erotic comic books and making inroads to the mainstream art world with exhibitions. In 1973 he gave up his full-time job at the Helsinki office of McCann-Erickson, an international advertising firm. "Since then I've lived in jeans and lived on my drawings," is how he described the lifestyle transition which occurred during this period.
Amazon: Tom of Finland XXL
Amazon: Tom of Finland: The Art of Pleasure
By the mid-1970 he was also emphasizing a photorealism style making aspects of the drawings appear more photographic. Many of his drawings are based on photographs, but none are exact reproductions of them. The photographic inspiration is used, on the one hand, to create lifelike, almost moving images, with convincing and active postures and gestures while Laaksonen exaggerates physical features and presents his ideal of masculine beauty and sexual allure, combining realism with fantasy. In Daddy and the Muscle Academy - The Art, Life, and Times of Tom of Finland examples of photographs and the drawings based upon them are shown side by side.
In 1979, Laaksonen with businessman and friend Durk Dehner co-founded the Tom of Finland Company, which became the Tom of Finland Foundation dedicated to collecting, preserving, and exhibiting homoerotic artwork. Although Laaksonen was quite successful at this point with his biography on the best-seller list and Benedikt Taschen, the world's largest art book publisher had to reprint and expand a monograph of his works, he was most proud of the foundation. The scope of the organization expanded to erotic works of all types, sponsored contests, exhibits and started the groundwork for a museum of erotic art.
In the late 1990s, the company introduced a fashion line based on his works, which covers a wide array of looks besides the typified cutoff-jeans-and-jacket style of his drawings. The fashion line balances the original homoeroticism of the drawings with mainstream fashion culture, and their runway shows occur in many of the venues during the same times as other fashion companies.
Amazon: Tom of Finland: Daddy and the Muscle Academy
The company produced a 1991 video biography, Daddy and the Muscle Academy: The Life and Art of Tom of Finland. By the late 1980s Laaksonen was well-known in the gay world but his "pneumatically muscled, meticulously rendered monster-donged icons of masculinity" received mainstream attention when the film - which includes hundreds of images of his work along with interviews - was shown on Finnish national TV, won a Finnish Emmy in its category and was shown at film festivals worldwide. While praising the artwork's quality one critic noted the film focussed on lauding Laaksonen as a gay pride icon while ignoring "resemblance to both S & M pornography and Fascist art" which she tied to Finland's early sexual experiences with German soldiers during World War II.
Amazon: Dirty Pictures: Tom of Finland, Masculinity, and Homosexuality
Amazon: Tom of Finland: The Complete Kake Comics
More Artists at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Art
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