Tom of Finland (born Touko Valio Laaksonen, 8 May 1920– 7 November 1991) ranks among the most internationally acclaimed artists to come out of Finland, his native country. His drawings of happy gay men proudly enjoying their sexuality were revolutionary at a time when homosexuality was still considered a crime and fetishism classified as a disease. His art has been liberating and empowering for countless gay men and sexual minorities for decades. Over the years, a small minority’s pornography has evolved into art enjoyed by wide audiences.
The characters in Tom of Finland’s drawings – lumberjacks, bikers, soldiers and policemen – exude vitality, joy and pride. Their leather gear and uniforms are portrayed with the same exquisite attention to detail as their muscular physiques. In his drawings, men connect with one another through erotic-laden gazes, gestures and postures. The artist drew to arouse desire, initially for his own private pleasure, and later for an expanding world of fans.