Dirty Pictures: Tom of Finland, Masculinity, and Homosexuality

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9780312276942: Dirty Pictures: Tom of Finland, Masculinity, and Homosexuality

In this groundbreaking study of the art of Touko Laaksonen (1920-1991), better known as Tom of Finland, Micha Ramakers explores the incredible and defining impact Tom's work has had upon the culture at large. It is work whose erotic and emotional power remains unabated to this day. Lavishly illustrated with drawings and photographs, Dirty Pictures is a lively and entertaining book encompassing the rise of the gay movement, the world of fine art, and the function (and the functioning) of pornography. For the millions of fans of Tom's work throughout the world, as well as readers unfamiliar with his work, this study brings uncommon insight into Tom of Finland's decidedly uncommon work.

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Review:

In a gay heaven, the choir robes would be designed by Gautier after drawings by Tom of Finland. Even on Earth, utopia must be approaching when the musclebound torsos and bulging baskets of Tom's manly men attract a full-length critical study. Art historian Micha Ramakers, who previously edited a monograph of Tom of Finland's drawings, argues persuasively for the influence of these hyper-masculine figures on gay culture since the mid-1950s, when the artist's renderings of fantasy men first began to appear in American beefcake magazines. Although the consistency of Tom of Finland's technique and themes over the four decades of his working life doesn't leave Ramakers much room to discuss the development of his subject's talents, he makes ample use of his few opportunities (like the introduction of more black figures in the mid-1980s, after the artist spent six months in the U.S.). More rewardingly, he uses the pornographer's work as a lens for examining the evolution of gay masculinity since the 1950s. --Regina Marler

About the Author:

Micha Ramakers is an art historian and author of the introduction to The Art of Tom of Finland (Taschen, 1998). He lives in Belgium.

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