Erotic art has been a staple of cultures around the world for many centuries, from the shunga prints of Japan to the terracotta pottery of ancient Greece. In every civilization, erotic art showcases intimacy among both heterosexual and homosexual couples. Despite condemnation from the Catholic church, many artists throughout history have chosen to depict queer sex in their works, most notably Caravaggio. And as Western society and the art world at large became increasingly secular, we began seeing a radical demand for homoerotic fetish art available to the masses.
Enter Touko Valio Laaksonen, or as he's better known, Tom of Finland. Finland became inspired by the U.S. censorship laws of the late 1950s and early 1960s to created hyper-masculine homosexual fetish art. During this time, all forms of gay pornography was illegal, however, his privately commissioned work became a source of discovery for closeted gay men. By the time gay pornography was decriminalized in the 1970s, Finland began publishing his works to the masses and developed a cult following, which included a foundation to preserve and exhibit his works.
Finland passed away in 1991 at the age of 71 from an emphysema-induced stroke, but his work is still highly appreciated by collectors around the world. Today, we see many tattoo enthusiasts taking inspiration from his legacy and flipping the bird to heteronormativity by getting a rendition of one of his famous works. Take a peek at some of our favorite Tom of Finland inspired tattoos in the gallery below, then let us know your thoughts on this story in the comments section.