Tattoos: a brief history from ‘outcast’ to ‘normal’

Archaeology showed that the origin of tattooing goes back way before the third millennium B.C. but started to become more and more popular in the western world after the renaissance era. When Captain Cook discovered Tahiti, and brought us the word ‘tatau’, the whole western world had become influenced by the new trend spread by soldiers, sailors and adventurers.

The first documented tattoo artist in Britain was Sutherland Macdonald, in the late 19thcentury, and he fought for the idea that tattooing is a form of art. Check out his classic works below:

While more and more people – even the royal family – became a big fan of tattoos, this way of self-expression still remained linked with criminality and tattooed people were judged as disreputable and outcast.

The Tattoo Renaissance began in the late 1950s, and was greatly influenced by several artists in particular Lyle TuttleCliff Raven, Don Nolan, Zeke Owens, Spider Webb and Ed Hardy

In many respects, Lyle Tuttle represents the beginning of the tattoo Renaissance: he founded the Tattoo Art Museum and Hall of Fame in San Francisco and publishes the Tattoo Historian. As the commercial art world and academic art historians take notice of tattooing, gallery and museum showings increase. This tends to attract better trained artists, which in turn, leads to a new clientele. This new clientele consists of middle class teens and adults, college students, media celebrities and sports heroes.

Janis Joplin’s wristlet and tiny heart on the left breast, done by the San Francisco based tattoo artist Lyle Tuttle in the 60s, which was an early moment in the popular culture’s acceptance of tattoos as art.

New social movements contributed to the fact that tattoos have taken on a different meaning for young people in the 70’s than for previous generations. The tattoo has “undergone dramatic redefinition” and has shifted from a form of deviance to an acceptable form of expression.

Photos and sources from:

Author: dublintattooart

Tattoo artist

%d bloggers like this: