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7 Unique Tattoos of Lesser Known Masterpieces

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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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Thomas Quine, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Take a Peek Inside One of Berlin's Strangest Museums
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Thomas Quine, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Vlad Korneev is a man with an obsession. He's spent years collecting technical and industrial objects from the last century—think iron lungs, World War II gas masks, 1930s fans, and vintage medical prostheses. At his Designpanoptikum in Berlin, which bills itself (accurately) as a "surreal museum of industrial objects," Korneev arranges his collection in fascinating, if disturbing, assemblages. (Atlas Obscura warns that it's "half design museum, half horror house of imagination.") Recently, the Midnight Archive caught up with Vlad for a special tour and some insight into the question visitors inevitably ask—"but what is it, really?" You can watch the full video below.

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Courtesy of Nikon
Microscopic Videos Provide a Rare Close-Up Glimpse of the Natural World
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Courtesy of Nikon

Nature’s wonders aren’t always visible to the naked eye. To celebrate the miniature realm, Nikon’s Small World in Motion digital video competition awards prizes to the most stunning microscopic moving images, as filmed and submitted by photographers and scientists. The winners of the seventh annual competition were just announced on September 21—and you can check out the top submissions below.


Daniel von Wangenheim, a biologist at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria, took first place with a time-lapse video of thale cress root growth. For the uninitiated, thale cress—known to scientists as Arabidopsis thalianais a small flowering plant, considered by many to be a weed. Plant and genetics researchers like thale cress because of its fast growth cycle, abundant seed production, ability to pollinate itself, and wild genes, which haven’t been subjected to breeding and artificial selection.

Von Wangenheim’s footage condenses 17 hours of root tip growth into just 10 seconds. Magnified with a confocal microscope, the root appears neon green and pink—but von Wangenheim’s work shouldn’t be appreciated only for its aesthetics, he explains in a Nikon news release.

"Once we have a better understanding of the behavior of plant roots and its underlying mechanisms, we can help them grow deeper into the soil to reach water, or defy gravity in upper areas of the soil to adjust their root branching angle to areas with richer nutrients," said von Wangenheim, who studies how plants perceive and respond to gravity. "One step further, this could finally help to successfully grow plants under microgravity conditions in outer space—to provide food for astronauts in long-lasting missions."


Second place went to Tsutomu Tomita and Shun Miyazaki, both seasoned micro-photographers. They used a stereomicroscope to create a time-lapse video of a sweating fingertip, resulting in footage that’s both mesmerizing and gross.

To prompt the scene, "Tomita created tension amongst the subjects by showing them a video of daredevils climbing to the top of a skyscraper," according to Nikon. "Sweating is a common part of daily life, but being able to see it at a microscopic level is equal parts enlightening and cringe-worthy."


Third prize was awarded to Satoshi Nishimura, a professor from Japan’s Jichi Medical University who’s also a photography hobbyist. He filmed leukocyte accumulations and platelet aggregations in injured mouse cells. The rainbow-hued video "provides a rare look at how the body reacts to a puncture wound and begins the healing process by creating a blood clot," Nikon said.

To view the complete list of winners, visit Nikon’s website.


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