Japonisme in Early British-American Tattooing




Reich, Hayden

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My research considers the development of tattooing in British culture in the Victorian era. During this time, professional tattooing in Britain was in its infancy, as most preceding tattoos were done by sailors using unsanitary methods. However, artists took key steps that led to the public and even royal consumption of tattoos. One critical aspect that led to the advancement of tattooing was taking influence from a culture that practiced tattooing for centuries prior, Japan. In the Edo period, tattooing was a popular cultural phenomenon, which led to the improvement of technique and style. A former British naval engineer, Sutherland Macdonald emerged as one of Britain’s first tattoo artists. His style was inspired by a Japanese artist whose skill was renowned among the British elite, Hori Chiyo. Chiyo trained under Japanese woodblock printers, which helped him craft his style. So, as a chain of influence, the professionalization of British tattooing can be stylistically traced back to Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock prints.



Edo, Victorian, Britain, Diaspora, Tattooing, Japonisme