Tom was born in the rural hamlet of Kaarina, Finland,
May 8, 1920 as “Touko Laaksonen”. His parents, both
teachers, raised him in a educated cultured environment. His playground
was nature, surrounded by lakes, forests and farmers fields. Tom’s
Men were already the farm labors, loggers and tradesmen that populated
his rural Finland.
Touko attended military officers academy, leading and fighting
in the front lines of Finland’s Winter War with Russia, where
he developed his deep admiration for men in uniforms. PostWar he
received a degree in advertising design, became art director of
the Helsinki bureau of the largest international advertising firm
at the time.
In 1957 he was first published by AMG Studios in America. It was
here his artistic name came into being, signing his name as “Tom”
the English equivalent, the studio expanded it to include his country
of origin and the name “Tom of Finland” was born. He
stayed as their main contributing artist in every issue for over
18 years. Simultaneously he was creating works for publications
in England, Germany and most countries in the western world.
Tom’s driving force through the four decades of his artistic
career was to provide positive role models for gay men inspiring
messages of self pride and happiness in men loving men. His work
transcended into the popular culture and became part of the culture.
His works reside in many museums of the world as MoMA in New York.
He has been hailed as one of the most influential artists of the
last century. It is difficult to find any one other individual who
has done more for gay liberation than this humble Finn who spent
most of his working career in his studios in Finland and America.
Tom spent his final days at age 71 in his native Finland. It was
there and then that he received recognition from his own country
through the national televising of the documentary on his life and
influence. He passed in his sleep in his home, the way he wanted
it. His message was always no shame, no guilt be proud and happy.