It's my custom to pick a favourite artist for each letter but that seems a rather foregone conclusion in this case, my lifelong obsession with Tom of Finland has only been rekindled to greater heights by this review! However, I would not let his elevated status detract from the stunning artwork of Teddy of Paris which would romp home the winner in a less crowded group and indeed might even pip 'ToF' on a more strictly objective analysis.
Tagame - Dungeon 2
The other giant of this group is Tagame of course. He certainly outranks the others in terms of fetish delivery – to the point of discomfort for most people, I imagine. For me, however, his representations of the male form somehow lack an essential sexiness that makes you want to linger and drool, but I expect that many hulk lovers will disagree with me on this (and there's a compelling exception to my own rule at the foot of this post). His story-telling accomplishments are significant too, but hard to weigh in the pictorial context of this series. However, I would hasten to add that I would not want to diminish in any way his importance to the fetish art form. Unfortunately his texts and imagery present serious accessibility hurdles to Westerners that cannot be overcome simply by translation (even if good translations were available!). Tagame's example proves that 'globalisation' is something of an illusion if you want to fully enjoy the products of other cultures.
Tam - Staked Sailor
The same is true of Tam's work to a lesser degree, consider the nationalities and service rivalry depicted in this image and you realise there is a level of meaning and context available only to the initiated. (I suspect many non-Americans may have experienced a similar bafflement with the nuances of Ulf's distinctive, cultural identity). Tam's art is not as polished as the others here, but his very British adventures and retro, uniform fetish will always command my interest and affection.
Tom of Finland - Jail Fetish
ToF, Tagame and Tam have all produced large quantities of pictures in their 'careers' and it's not surprising if inspiration flags sometimes. The best erotic art comes from emotional commitment and focus. It's the classic 'more is less' dilemma, so Tom's late 'second flowering' in his unpressured 60's (see original Tom of Finland articles and image above) is a rare glimpse of a level of erotic quality we might otherwise never have seen and confirms his primary position in my pantheon.
Paradoxically, the Letter T group of artists also has it's fair share of tantalising, isolated classics where, sadly, there is no supporting work to flesh out our acquaintanceship with an artist we would all like to know more of. I'm thinking of Thompson, Takeuchi and Tendoji.
The letter 'T' with it's wealth of fetish riches has been a both a challenge and a pleasure for me to review. I have learned much from my research for the series which will probably produce some follow-up articles too. Letter 'U' will follow soon.
Tagame - Bound Captive in Underwear
For other artists in the A-Z series click on the label below or search by name.