Tom of Finland (Finnish, 1920-1991) Untitled ("Happy Couple") (Executed in 1974)

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Lot 7AR
Tom of Finland
(Finnish, 1920-1991)
Untitled ("Happy Couple")

Sold for £ 29,000 (US$ 39,879) inc. premium
A Curated Selection by Henry Miller

Property from the Miles Chapman Collection
Tom of Finland (Finnish, 1920-1991)
Untitled ("Happy Couple")
signed 'Tom' (lower left)
graphite on paper
30.5 x 22.5cm (12 x 8 7/8in).
Executed in 1974

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Bob Mizer (1922-1992), founder of Athletic Model Guild (AMG)
    bequeathed to his heir Wayne Stanley
    acquired from him c.1997 (with some hundred-plus original drawings published in Physique Pictorial by other great American physique artists) by Miles Chapman, formerly a senior editor at Vanity Fair

    Literature
    Physique Pictorial, vol. 26, December 1974 (illustrated as back cover)
    Tim Blanks, 'Profanation of Our Joys' in Another Man, Autumn/Winter 2017 (illustrated p.160)

    Tom of Finland (real name Touko Laaksonen) came to the attention of American, and indeed global, audiences in 1957 when his drawings first appeared in Physique Pictorial, the iconic magazine published in Los Angeles by Bob Mizer. Mizer had founded his photography studio and publishing house, Athletic Model Guild (AMG), in 1945; within two years, he was convicted of distributing obscene material in the form of black and white photographs of young bodybuilders wearing "posing straps" made by his mother. He continued his work nonetheless.

    Physique Pictorial, which ran from 1951 to 1990, was packed with Mizer's photographs of soldiers, sailors, hopeful actors, and later on pure street hustlers - each accompanied by light-hearted biographies: Jim is "an active gymnast... [he] plays the piano and does tricks (magician tricks, that is)". In addition, the periodical included Tom of Finland's extraordinary run of drawings, usually in sets of six per theme. They functioned as "teen photo stories" which Mizer published and then sold as photographic copies to his ever-growing readership.

    Together, Tom and Mizer codified a new form of male erotica, exploding the charged sexuality under the surface of American life. In Tom's extravagantly romantic images - a potent mix of exaggerated physicality and emotional truth - bikers handle attempted thieves a little too roughly, a strapping TV repairman is cornered against the set by its owner, and the sailors taking a novice to a tattoo parlour are all high-tensile teeth and smiles. It was precisely Tom who developed a new set of subcultural codes (leatherman, cowboy, biker, cop), turning the workwear and uniforms of blue-collar America into a set of cross-cultural fantasy signals that have become globally recognised - permeating the imagery of Robert Mapplethorpe, the Village People, and Queen.

    On the back cover of the December 1974 issue of Physique Pictorial was this rare and fine finished drawing from Tom's golden age, part of Mizer's 'Set S', where a standing nude makes a possessive/protective gesture to his crouching friend, both regarding the onlooker, direct but enigmatic.
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