Tom of Finland

Tom of Finland (born Touko Laaksonen in Kaarina, Finland) was an artist notable for his erotic art and his influence on late twentieth century culture. 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, buttocks and improbably large penises. Tight or partially removed clothing showed off these traits, with penises often visible as distinct bulges 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. Touko Laaksonen made his first erotic drawings in his youth, but none of them are known to exist; Laaksonen said that he had at first kept his drawings hidden, but then destroyed them "at least by the time I went to serve the army". His drawings were based on images of masculine Finnish laborers he had seen from an early age. Finland however, soon became embroiled in the Winter War with the USSR and then formally involved in World War II, and Laaksonen was conscripted into the Finnish Army. He served as an anti-aircraft officer, holding the rank of a second lieutenant. He later attributed his fetishistic interest in uniformed men to encounters with men in army uniform at this time.

After the war, Laaksonen returned to civilian life and worked in the advertising industry as a commercial graphic artist, continuing to create erotic drawings for his own pleasure on the side.In 1956, Laaksonen submitted some of his homoerotic drawings to the influential American magazine Physique Pictorial for publication under the pseudonym Tom, as it resembled his given name Touko. The editor of the magazine changed the name to Tom of Finland.

Laaksonen's work soon came to the attention of the gay community at large, and by 1973, he was both publishing erotic comic books and infiltrating the mainstream art world. He was best known for works that focused on masculine archetypes such as lumberjacks, motorcycle policemen, sailors, businessmen, bikers, and leathermen. His most prominent comic series are the "Kake" comics, which included these archetypal characters in abundance.In 1979, Laaksonen founded the Tom of Finland Company to collect and distribute his work. Before his death, Laaksonen was the subject of the Finnish documentary Daddy and the Muscle Academy - The Art, Life, and Times of Tom of Finland which includes interviews with the artist.

Many of his drawings are based on photographs, The photographic inspiration is used, on the one hand, to create lifelike, almost moving images, with convincing and active postures and gestures whilst, on the other hand, Laaksonen exaggerates physical features and presents his ideal of masculine beauty and sexual allure, combining realism with fantasy as is explained in some detail in Daddy and the Muscle Academy - The Art, Life, and Times of Tom of Finland, which includes examples of photographs and the drawings based upon them side by side.