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OVER A QUARTER CENTURY OF DEDICATION TO PROTECTING, PRESERVING AND PROMOTING EROTIC ART.

Tom of Finland - a personal remembrance.
BY DURK DEHNER

Durk Dehner (l) and Tom of Finland circa 1985

Tom of Finland, the artist and man, was born, raised and lived most of his life in his native Finland, dying there in 1991 at the age of 71. I was in my mid-20s when Tom and I started corresponding back in 1976 and was ripe and ready to experience the messages he portrayed in his works. Tom quickly became the most important person to influence my life to that date. I discovered through his work that I was as much of a man as any of my heterosexual counterparts and that sex and love between men could be a heroic bonding experience - not unlike that of Greek and Roman soldiers.


Tom's favorite character, "Kake", was always just as willing to get his hole plowed as he was to do the plowing and clearly sent the message out that sex between men is just plain manly - no matter what position one takes. By his characters' actions Tom showed unbridled sexual passion between men and, afterwards, a brotherhood and camaraderie. His drawings also encouraged guys to experiment and push boundaries, to do anything to turn your partner on and get him off.



Tom - along with the physique photographers of the 50s - has finally been acknowledged as the man responsible for creating the image of the leatherman that persists to this day. His drawings not only rocked the boundaries of the gay community of the time but also spread into the straight leather biker clubs of England, Germany and, eventually, the US. Tom's leatherman image has manifested itself as a style of clothes, build, attitude and lifestyle. In fact, some straight men are beginning to consider Tom's Man the "uber-man", an ultimate male sexhound role model.


In Tom, we have a grandfather of sorts to share with younger generations and if Tom were here today his message would be to stay young at heart. (In fact, Tom continued to frequent the leather and dancing scene well into his 60s). Tom would also tell both men and women that when they are in the heat of sexual arousal and they look at that special guy, his cock looks as big and delicious as any Tom ever drew himself.

 

Sincerely,
"Dirty" Durk Dehner
Cofounder and Director of the Tom of Finland Foundation and owner of the Tom of Finland Company.


Tom liked to use his friends as models for his drawings. On the left is one of many drawings featuring Durk. On the right is Tom's friend Aarno who was Tom's favorite model for the ideal leatherman.

QUOTATIONS FROM TOM OF FINLAND

THE LOUVRE

“I know my little ‘dirty drawings’ are never going to hang in the main salons of the Louvre, but it would be nice if — I would like to say ‘when,’ but I better say ‘if’ — our world learns to accept all the different ways of loving. Then maybe I could have a place in one of the smaller side rooms.” — 1991

HAPPY SEXUALITY

“In those days, a gay man was made to feel nothing but shame about his feelings and his sexuality. I wanted my drawings to counteract that, to show gay men being happy and positive about who they were. Oh, I didn’t sit down to think this all out carefully. But I knew — right from the start — that my men were going to be proud and happy men!”

NAKED MEN

“I almost never draw a completely naked man. He has to have at least a pair of boots or something on. To me, a fully dressed man is more erotic than a naked one. A naked man is, of course beautiful, but dress him in black leather or a uniform — ah, then he is more than beautiful, then he is sexy!”

MONEY

“…I named what I thought was an enormous sum. Without blinking an eye, he gathered up my life work and handed me the amount I asked for: $70… I didn’t expect more. Remember that homosexuality was forbidden in most of the Western world; so all those businesses were illegal, black market. I knew that they wouldn’t have paid me more anyway — or so I believed then.”

ABSTRACT ART

“The abstract, especially in those rough sketches, is very important to me, perhaps because of my advertising background, where layout is so important. Sometimes those first few lines cut the paper into such satisfying shapes that I don’t want to go on, but I always do, adding nostrils and nipples and bootstraps until I have filled the paper up as usual.”

MATTERS OF SIZE

“Cock size doesn’t matter to me. I didn’t start doing those gigantic cocks until the censors let the magazines publish full frontal nudity. I had to come up with something you couldn’t get in a photograph. So those big cocks are all for the other guys — I’m an ass man myself.”

MALE MUSE

“Whenever I was depressed or disgusted, I would feel him, that spirit inside, urging me back to living, back to drawing, I believe there is a lot to the world that can’t be seen or touched, and if you turn away from that — especially if you are an artist — you are avoiding an important part of life, maybe the very heart of it.”

ENCOURAGE

"My drawings are primarily meant for guys who may have experienced misunderstanding and oppression and feel that they have somehow failed in their lives. I want to encourage them. I want to encourage this minority group, to tell them not to give up, to think positively about their act and whole being." — 1990

INTERVIEW WITH PATRICK SARFATI

"My whole life long I have done nothing but interpret my dreams of ultimate masculinity, and draw them." — published in Rebel

TOM OF FINLAND FOUNDATION 2003 - 2016


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HAPPY SEXUALITY
“In those days, a gay man was made to feel nothing but shame about his feelings and his sexuality. I wanted my drawings to counteract that, to show gay men being happy and positive about who they were. Oh, I didn’t sit down to think this all out carefully. But I knew — right from the start — that my men were going to be proud and happy men!"
— Tom of Finland