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'Unashamedly gay': Tom of Finland's bulging beefcake drawings unveiled in London

Durk Dehner at the House of Illustration's Tomof Finland exhibition Courtesy Gareth Harris

Fans of Tom of Finland will no doubt flock to the House of Illustration in London which is launching a show of works by the late Finnish artist and illustrator. Love and Liberation (until 28 June) is the first major UK show of Tom's work, which set out “not to create an ideal but to draw beautiful men who love each other and are proud of it”. Tom is known for his highly homoerotic depictions of hyper-masculine men decked out in biker leather gear who inspired and aroused a generation of gay men with their bulging muscles and jutting jawlines. This celebration of beautiful beefy bodies includes rarely seen works such as linocuts produced in limited editions and striking images of Durk Dehner, the co-founder of the Los Angeles-based Tom of Finland foundation, which has loaned most of the works. At the exhibition launch, Dehner singled out a portrait of himself, aged 28. “He captured my soul; that was a birthday present,” he said, adding: “We tried to pull out things [from the archive] that would surprise audiences.” These undiscovered, unashamedly gay images include some Matisse-inspired pieces dating from 1978 and a work depicting an interracial couple that could not be shown in the US. “Tom elevated the self-esteem of homosexuals. Besides, sexiness never goes out of style,” Dehner quipped.