Saturday, June 25, 2011

WWII and Tom of Finland

He's one of VGMH's favorite artists, and his personal experiences living through World War II greatly impacted his viewpoint of male sexuality.  The son of middle-class schoolteacher parents, Touko Laaksonen (his real name) moved to Helsinki in 1939 (at the age of nineteen) to study advertising when World War II changed everything.  Touko was drafted into the army and served in an anti-aircraft division.  Finland formed a pact with Nazi Germany and attacked the Soviet Union, and Laaksonen was involved in military fighting on the eastern front.  Biographies have reported that it was during the blackouts (no lights allowed at night to help prevent the enemy from seeing where to bomb) that Touko discovered how quickly heterosexual men could take advantage of situations without ever a word being said. Finland surrendered to the Soviet Union in 1945, and Laaksonen resumed his art studies in Helsinki, but he would never forget those wartime years or the images of all those young handsome soldiers.

Already by the end of WWII, Laaksonen had begun drawing men in military uniforms, from both sides of the battle.
Laaksonen observed the men in their formal roles and also as they relaxed.  Fantasies of handsome muscular soldiers wearing knee-high boots, skin-tight trousers displaying penis outlines (for anyone with the guts to look down there), and of course the classic officer’s cap would captivate his art for the rest of his life.  In the years following the war, he worked as a freelance commercial artist and cabaret pianist.  While Laaksonen had been making what he described as his ‘dirty drawings’ since the 1940s, it was only in the late 1950s that he began publishing these naughty gay pictures, and this was also when his sexy soldiers began to morph with what would become his leather/biker men.  The photos below are actual WWII soldier uniforms, similar to those shown in Tom's artwork.  In 1957 he became known as Tom of Finland.


  1. We love Tom of Finland. Glenn and I have been to some of the annual T of F art fairs/parties. Last one here was in March. I have sent you a link to our last gathering.

  2. Wow! I had no idea that his work goes so far back! I've seen his work constantly since the 70's and always just assumed that it was the work of some recent artist.

    But you left us hanging. Is he still around? [I don't know why it is, but I always want to know where these people are today. Are they living? And what about their personal lives? C'mon Steve, give us "some scoop on the poop"!]

  3. He passed on in 1991. You might enjoy the link to a complete series of his from last summer--a take on Tarzan:


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