Artist Touko Laaksonen, a.k.a. Tom of Finland, rose to fame as one of the most significant erotic artists of the last century. He was prolific, having created almost 3,500 illustrations during his 40-year career, and his drawings of hyper-sexualized, masculine men became staples of gay culture.
Laaksonen died in 1991. Almost 30 years later, an official biography of the artist is finally being released. Created in partnership with the Tom of Finland Foundation, Tom of Finland: The Official Life and Work of a Gay Hero opens Laaksonen's archives and features some of his most famous illustrations along with rare, never-before-seen materials from his archives.
Author F. Valentine Hooven, III. interviewed Laaksonen just a few months before the artist's death, meaning this book is only fully authorized biography of the legend.
“Although he never attended a march or waved a banner at a demonstration, in the second half of the 20th century no one did more for the furthering of Gay Pride than Tom did,” Hooven said in a statement. “Many may have forgotten, or never knew, the shameful stereotypes of queer people that were once damn near universally believed and which Tom deliberately combated with each stroke of his pencil."
Today, Tom of Finland has evolved beyond postcards and pictures into a thriving brand: His art is available on everything from skateboards and sex toys to cologne and coffee, and even a high-end fashion collaboration with Assume Vivid Astro Focus. A biopic of the artist was released in 2017.
In a statement, Durk Dehner, president and co-founder of the Tom of Finland Foundation, said the artist and his biographer "had a great rapport":
With both of them having so much trust in each other, and that there is so much in The Official Life and Work of a Gay Hero that is in Tom's own words, this work truly has a personal, autobiographical feel to it. I am so pleased that we are able to release this special 2020 edition for the anniversary of Tom's birth. I know Tom would be pleased, too!
Tom of Finland: The Official Life and Work of a Gay Hero is out now from Abrams Books. Scroll through below to see more images from the biography.