The rediscovered series from the very beginning of Tom’s career
Arguably the most iconic three images from the peak of Tom’s artistic abilities
The original graphite’s represented here were produced by Tom between 1959 and 1972, and were acquired directly from the man who commissioned them.
In 1959, a little more than a year after the first publication of Tom’s work in the United States, Tony Hepworth sent Touku Laaksonen £25 (approximately £500 today) to create the first of a series of drawings. Tony was an enterprising and successful young man, and recognized Tom’s talent when he saw it. He was also a motorcycle aficionado, and he asked Tom to create a story with a motorcycle theme.
Once a month for the next 11 months, Tony would send Tom £25, and Tom would send Tony a completed graphite drawing. Tom did not draw these on demand, but drew them on a monthly basis from his memory of the images he had already sent. This is clear not only from the subtle changes (or sometimes dramatic) changes in the characters over the series, but also from the drawing style and paper used. By 1960 (cleverly referenced by the license plate on the motorcycle), the series was complete and displayed casually at Tony’s tony London flat.
During this period, Tony and Tom’s relationship matured from acquaintances to friends, and they often found themselves in the same jet-setting social scene from Berlin to London to San Francisco. References to their relationship can be seen in the accompanying correspondence between the two.
By 1966 the cycle was ready to repeat itself with The Military Series, this time over the course of six years (1966 – 1971). Tom’s skill level had matured significantly, as had the intensity and stylized nature of his work. While it is unclear what Tony paid Tom for these three works, it was certainly more than £25.
All 14 works (and perhaps another lost image from the early series) remained with Tony until acquired by a collector in 2012 when Tony moved to nursing home and decided to downsize his estate. Tony died in 2014, and the images remain with the US collector in Austin, Texas.