A new book on Tom of Finland takes a novel approach to the legendary artist’s work. Rather than highlight Tom’s later work, Tom of Finland: An Imaginary Sketchbook is instead a cross-section of his less polished and unfinished freehand drawings and sketches. Edited by author, art dealer, and collector Juerg Judin and German art critic and writer Pay Matthis Karstens just in time for Pride, the book has the look and feel of a sketchbook.
Born Touko Laaksonen (1920-1991), Tom revolutionized not just the depiction of gay men with his highly stylized and hypersexualized imagery but also the way they were perceived in society and how they perceived themselves. As he created his work at a time when it was illegal to do so, much of Tom’s earlier work could land both the artist and collector in jail on indecency and pornography charges. As a result, recognition of his artistry spread organically via word of mouth and outside the museums and galleries of the established art world.
Tom of Finland: An Imaginary Sketchbook is the first book to center Tom’s sketches and freehand drawings. By using the format of an imaginary sketchbook, Karsten says the volume offers readers a chance to experience a different perspective than Tom’s more familiar finished works that are sold in galleries or emblazoned on merchandise such as shirts. Karsten says the trademark oversized genitalia, leather attire, and liberal amounts of skin and sex are still on display in the book but in a less polished form.
Tom of Finland: An Imaginary Sketchbook has 70 color illustrations over 128 pages and is published by Skira Editore. The book goes on sale June 7.