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7 Unique Tattoos of Lesser Known Masterpieces

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WikiArt

If you want a tattoo that is memorable, it’s reasonable to select a work of art that has stood firmly in the minds of men for generations. Familiar names like Van Gogh, Edvard Munch, and Picasso call up popular images known the world over, and these are the pictures usually selected for inking. But for a tattoo that is both memorable and unique, why not examine the lesser known work of the great artists? You might find a piece of brilliance that speaks more to your individuality, like the tattoos below.

1. Edvard Munch’s Girl and Death

All right, I know you love The Scream. We all love The Scream. We all have moments when we feel like that terrified figment trapped alone in a sour warped rainbow. But Edvard Munch was able to render severe and complicated emotions in his other works, too. Munch created this sketch in 1894, putting an unsettling, brilliant twist on an ancient artistic subject, Death and the Maiden. In Munch’s world, Death didn’t frighten or dominate Woman (or Love, if you will). She embraces him tenderly, fearlessly. Tattoos are often chosen because they represent strength and courage. You don’t get much braver than kissing Death in the face.

2. Rembrandt’s The Storm on the Sea of Galilee

Butterfat Studios / Wikiart

It’s hard to copy Rembrandt; he did works of careful subtlety and great detail. It’s especially hard when you’re wrapping his masterpiece around a fleshy human arm. All in all, this inking of Sea of Galilee went pretty well. You can see Jesus, with a slight glow around his head, in the bottom right corner, matching the glow of golden heavens that are pushing away the storm. Also, if you really like this painting, a tattoo is a good way to make sure it sticks around. No one has seen the original since it was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum of Massachusetts in 1990, in what is still considered the largest art heist in history.

3. Van Gogh’s Fishing Boats on the Beach at Saintes-Maries, Sketch

This might shock you, but there are so many Van Gogh inspired tattoos out there that they are an absolute fad. They are the spiral perms of the 21st century. I resisted the sunflowers, the endless renditions of Starry Night (with and without the Tardis), and even a couple Café Terrace at Nights. But I liked this one. It’s the preliminary sketch Van Gogh quickly drew out of a painting he later finished. As he wrote a friend, “It was before the boats hastened out; I had watched them every morning, but as they leave very early I didn’t have time to paint them.”

4. Picasso’s The Dog

Not just any dog, mind you. Meet Lump. He was a dachshund who belonged to a friend of Picasso. The artist and the wiener dog made a loving connection, with Picasso portraying Lump in many of his pieces. Lump also is the only known individual to ever have eaten a piece of art by Picasso. Which serves Picasso right for using a sugary cake box to construct it. The simplicity of this tattoo, done in a single line, is a natural choice for dachshund lovers as well as fans of Picasso’s period of simple, clean line drawings.

5. Paul Klee’s Siblings

This isn’t a completely faithful copy of Klee’s original (also called “Brother and Sister”); the tattoo artist chose his own coloration. But the message Klee laid down is still there. Your siblings; you have tangled, blurred and inextricable relationships with each other. Still you might find beauty in them. Or just chaos. Klee, who had one sister, finished this piece in 1930.

6. Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase

Jay Wheeler / Wikiart

Marcel Duchamp is the kind of artist who can just infuriate people. Not for being vulgar or controversial, but for slapping an upside-down urinal or a wheel stuck to the top of a stool in a museum and calling it “art.” And getting away with it. Much of Duchamp’s work wasn’t about pleasant aesthetics. It was about providing the viewer with a genuine WTH? moment. Nude Descending a Staircase caused a huge reaction when it went on display in New York in 1913. Because, as one reviewer described, it looked like “an explosion at a shingle factory.” It wasn’t that it was ugly; Cubism was already a recognizable form. It was the frustration. Duchamp triggered the audience’s sexual curiosity and fascination with the taboo, and then didn’t satisfy it. Or maybe he did?

7. Dali’s Christ of Saint John of the Cross

Miguel Angel / Wikiart

Salvatore Dali was more than just the melty-clocks guy. This most peculiar yet strangely reverent take on an extremely familiar image proves that. Dali claimed the idea for the painting came to him in a dream. Drawing inspiration from a 19th century sketch done by a Spanish monk, Dali set about creating one of the most unique takes on Christ’s crucifixion ever set to canvas. It is notable that there is no blood, no nails, nothing that would distract from the theretofore unthinkable downward (Godlike?) perspective of the scene. And most unusual: how many of the 1000s of depictions of Christ’s death don’t show His face? In addition to the endless religious and philosophical discussions you could trigger by taking your shirt off and showing this at dinner parties, you can add geometry to the conversation. Dali certainly did, saying, “I devised a geometrical construct comprising a triangle and a circle, the aesthetic sum total of all my previous experience, and put my Christ inside the triangle.”

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Art
5 Things You Might Not Know About Ansel Adams

You probably know Ansel Adams—who was born on February 20, 1902—as the man who helped promote the National Park Service through his magnificent photographs. But there was a lot more to the shutterbug than his iconic, black-and-white vistas. Here are five lesser-known facts about the celebrated photographer.

1. AN EARTHQUAKE LED TO HIS DISTINCTIVE NOSE.

Adams was a four-year-old tot when the 1906 San Francisco earthquake struck his hometown. Although the boy managed to escape injury during the quake itself, an aftershock threw him face-first into a garden wall, breaking his nose. According to a 1979 interview with TIME, Adams said that doctors told his parents that it would be best to fix the nose when the boy matured. He joked, "But of course I never did mature, so I still have the nose." The nose became Adams' most striking physical feature. His buddy Cedric Wright liked to refer to Adams' honker as his "earthquake nose.

2. HE ALMOST BECAME A PIANIST.

Adams was an energetic, inattentive student, and that trait coupled with a possible case of dyslexia earned him the heave-ho from private schools. It was clear, however, that he was a sharp boy—when motivated.

When Adams was just 12 years old, he taught himself to play the piano and read music, and he quickly showed a great aptitude for it. For nearly a dozen years, Adams focused intensely on his piano training. He was still playful—he would end performances by jumping up and sitting on his piano—but he took his musical education seriously. Adams ultimately devoted over a decade to his study, but he eventually came to the realization that his hands simply weren't big enough for him to become a professional concert pianist. He decided to leave the keys for the camera after meeting photographer Paul Strand, much to his family's dismay.

3. HE HELPED CREATE A NATIONAL PARK.

If you've ever enjoyed Kings Canyon National Park in California, tip your cap to Adams. In the 1930s Adams took a series of photographs that eventually became the book Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail. When Adams sent a copy to Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, the cabinet member showed it to Franklin Roosevelt. The photographs so delighted FDR that he wouldn't give the book back to Ickes. Adams sent Ickes a replacement copy, and FDR kept his with him in the White House.

After a few years, Ickes, Adams, and the Sierra Club successfully convinced Roosevelt to make Kings Canyon a national park in 1940. Roosevelt's designation specifically provided that the park be left totally undeveloped and roadless, so the only way FDR himself would ever experience it was through Adams' lenses.

4. HE WELCOMED COMMERCIAL ASSIGNMENTS.

While many of his contemporary fine art photographers shunned commercial assignments as crass or materialistic, Adams went out of his way to find paying gigs. If a company needed a camera for hire, Adams would generally show up, and as a result, he had some unlikely clients. According to The Ansel Adams Gallery, he snapped shots for everyone from IBM to AT&T to women's colleges to a dried fruit company. All of this commercial print work dismayed Adams's mentor Alfred Stieglitz and even worried Adams when he couldn't find time to work on his own projects. It did, however, keep the lights on.

5. HE AND GEORGIA O'KEEFFE WERE FRIENDS.

Adams and legendary painter O'Keeffe were pals and occasional traveling buddies who found common ground despite their very different artistic approaches. They met through their mutual friend/mentor Stieglitz—who eventually became O'Keeffe's husband—and became friends who traveled throughout the Southwest together during the 1930s. O'Keeffe would paint while Adams took photographs.

These journeys together led to some of the artists' best-known work, like Adams' portrait of O'Keeffe and a wrangler named Orville Cox, and while both artists revered nature and the American Southwest, Adams considered O'Keeffe the master when it came to capturing the area. 

“The Southwest is O’Keeffe’s land,” he wrote. “No one else has extracted from it such a style and color, or has revealed the essential forms so beautifully as she has in her paintings.”

The two remained close throughout their lives. Adams would visit O'Keeffe's ranch, and the two wrote to each other until Adams' death in 1984.

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Dan Bell
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Design
A Cartographer Is Mapping All of the UK’s National Parks, J.R.R. Tolkien-Style
Peak District National Park
Peak District National Park
Dan Bell

Cartographer Dan Bell makes national parks into fantasy lands. Bell, who lives near Lake District National Park in England, is currently on a mission to draw every national park in the UK in the style of the maps in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Kottke.org reports.

The project began in September 2017, when Bell posted his own hand-drawn version of a Middle Earth map online. He received such a positive response that he decided to apply the fantasy style to real world locations. He has completed 11 out of the UK’s 15 parks so far. Once he finishes, he hopes to tackle the U.S. National Park system, too. (He already has Yellowstone National Park down.)

Bell has done various other maps in the same style, including ones for London and Game of Thrones’s Westeros, and he commissions, in case you have your own special locale that could use the Tolkien treatment. Check out a few of his park maps below.

A close-up of a map for Peak District National Park
Peak District National Park in central England
Dan Bell

A black-and-white illustration of Cairngorms National Park in the style of a 'Lord of the Rings' map.
Cairngorms National Park in Scotland
Dan Bell

A black-and-white illustration of Lake District National Park in the style of a 'Lord of the Rings' map.
Lake District National Park in England
Dan Bell

You can buy prints of the maps here.

[h/t Kottke.org]

All images by Dan Bell

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