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Drawing by Tom of Finland: Untitled [Peter Berlin from the rear with Seated Male Figure], available at Childs Gallery, Boston

Tom of Finland

Finnish (1920-1991)

Untitled [Peter Berlin from the rear with Seated Male Figure], 1978
Graphite on paper

Tom of Finland Foundation #0579. Preparatory drawing for ToFF #78. In fine condition.

Touko Valio Laaksonen, pseudonym Tom of Finland, was a Finnish artist who made highly stylized hyper-masculine homoerotic art, and whose aesthetic went on to have a sizable influence on late 20th-century gay culture. Born in Finland just outside the city of Turku, at nineteen years old Laaksonen moved to Helsinki to study advertising in 1939. Years later, when the country became embroiled in World War II, Laaksonen was conscripted into the Finnish Army, where he served as an anti-aircraft officer.  It was during the frequent blackouts that plagued Helsinki during the war that Laaksonen began to have his first clandestine sexual encounters with other men. These encounters would serve as the raw material for his drawings.
Peter Berlin (born Armin Hagen Freiherr von Hoyningen-Huene)—a photographer, artist, filmmaker, clothing designer, and Gay icon—served as the model for this drawing. Berlin started taking photographs of himself in the 1970s, which led him to establish a mail-order business through which he would sell his self-portraits. He sent some of these photographs to Laaksonen (Tom of Finland), who would use the images as a reference in some of his drawings. By modifying his clothes and choosing various props and settings Berlin would photograph himself in ways that created a hyper-sexualized image in line with Laaksonen’s ultra-masculine aesthetic. Becoming a fixture of 1970s gay culture, Berlin became the subject of several photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe, at least one portrait by Andy Warhol, and three drawings by Tom of Finland. 

Exhibited: “Tom of Finland and then some,” June 24 – July 31, 2010, Feature Inc., NY.