A collection of 19th century Japanese prints that continue to inspire modern tattooers and artists of all trades.
Back in 2011 the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston displayed selections of their Japanese prints from part of their archive, one of the largest outside of Japan. To date, I still have not been seen a single collection of art as impressive. Many of these images originated as the
comic books graphic novels of their time and their influence on modern culture is impossible to miss.
Japanese wood block prints have influenced tattooers over the last 200 years and continue to do so. Though many of the images below depict actors in costume and popular folk lore, they paint a picture of a thriving tattoo community existing hundreds of years ago. Needless to say, us Westerners are still trying to catch up.
If you do your homework you can find many of these images reproduced on skin either in their entirety or just small elements in the work of modern tattooers and artists of all trades.
Many of the recognizable images above are from Utagawa Kuniyoshi’s illustrations of Chinese martial arts heros. Other artists worth looking into include Utagawa Kunisada I, Toyohara Kunichika and Kitagawa Utamaro.