The man on the stamp

TOM OF FINLAND (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920 – 1991), Untitled, 1979, Graphite on paper, ToFF #79.16, © 1979 Tom of Finland Foundation

TOM OF FINLAND (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920 – 1991), Untitled, 1979, Graphite on paper, ToFF #79.06, © 1979 Tom of Finland Foundation

TOM OF FINLAND (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920 – 1991), Untitled (Aarno), 1976, Silver gelatin print, ToFF #9073, © 1976 Tom of Finland Foundation

TOM OF FINLAND (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920 – 1991), Untitled (Aarno), 1976, Silver gelatin print, ToFF #9073, © 1976 Tom of Finland Foundation

Aarno Nurmi was Tom of Finland’s all-time favorite Finnish model. He lived in Finland as a young man, but like Touko, Aarno found opportunities and then moved to New York.

Photo of Aarno by Tom.

Photo of Aarno by Tom, who devoted pages of his model reference binder to him.

…Tom decided to use another one of  his longtime modeling buddies Aarno as the prototype for Pekka. Aarno, a happy-go-lucky exhibitionist, had a grand time playing the role, dressing up in breeches, boots, and hat for Tom to photograph…

Tom took many of the photographs in his archives himself. The greatest number of those is of his favorite posing buddies, Eero and Aarno. He occasionally hired professional models but, usually dissatisfied with the results, preferred to work with amateurs, pressing Veli and many other friends to don his uniforms and leather gear and hold a pose for him. For major commissions or complicated poses, Tom frequently took photographs specifically for that drawing, but most of his final works drew on a number of sources, real and imaginary. Seldom was a single photograph turned into a single drawing.

…I take or get several photographs from various angles because even though the drawing will be done only from one angle, one photograph doesn’t give you all the information you need for one drawing.

Aarno lived with his parents quite a distance from Tom’s home, so he would frequently stay overnight after a modeling session. One night, as they were cuddling naked, teetering between sleep and sex, Aarno suddenly stiffened and pulled away from Tom. Tom just assumed he had decided he was too tired, but the next time Aarno came to model, he explained that he had suddenly had the intense feeling that his mother was right there in the room with them. When he got home, his mother had taken him aside and told him that she knew what was going on. She described Tom and even the details of his bedroom. She then told Aarno that she did not mind him sleeping “in other men’s beds,” but “he’s too old for you!”

Tom of Finland – Life and Work of a Gay Hero
by F. Valentine Hooven III

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