Tom of Finland
Tom of Finland (May 8, 1920 - November 7, 1991) (born Touko Laaksonen in Kaarina, Finland) was a fetish artist notable for his stylised homoerotic art and his influence on late twentieth century gay culture.
At 19, Touko moved from his native Kaarina to Helsinki to attend art school. In Helsinki, he first began to sketch his first homoerotic drawings, based on images of masculine Finnish labourers he had saved 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 Touko was inducted into the Finnish Army. After the war, Touko returned to civilian life and worked in the advertising industry, continuing to draw on the side. In 1957, he submitted some of his homoerotic drawings to the American magazine Physique Pictorial for publication under the pseudonym of "Tom of Finland" to avoid scrutiny in his home country. Allegedly, Touko chose "Tom" as it resembles his birthname Touko more than any other English name.
Touko's work soon garnered attention from the gay community at large, and by 1973, he was both publishing erotic comic books and infiltrating the mainstream art world. "Tom" was best known for works that focused on homomasculine archetypes such as lumberjacks, motorcycle policemen, sailors, businessmen, bikers and leathermen. His most prominent comic series is the "Kake" comics, which included these archetypal characters in abundance.
In 1979, Touko founded the Tom of Finland Company to collect and distribute his work. This company exists to the present day, and has expanded into a non-profit foundation dedicated to collecting, preserving and exhibiting homoerotic artwork. In the late 1990s, the company introduced a fashion line based on the works of "Tom", 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.
Before his death, "Tom" was the subject of the documentary Daddy and the Muscle Academy - The Art, Life, and Times of Tom of Finland.