Posts Tagged ‘Thom de Vita and client in his studio

17
Apr
17

Exhibition: ‘Tattooed New York’ at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Exhibition dates: 3rd February – 30th April 2017

Curator: Cristian Petru Panaite, Assistant Curator of Exhibitions at the New-York Historical Society

 

 

The first of two postings on the history of tattooing and tattoo artists of New York (the second posting being on the exhibition The Original Gus Wagner: The Maritime Roots of Modern Tattoo appearing soon).

“The exhibition focuses special attention on women and tattoos, from the sideshow era through today. Photographs capture famous sideshow tattooed stars, including Nora Hildebrandt, “the first professional tattooed lady;” La Belle Irene, “the original tattooed lady;” and Lady Viola, “the most beautiful tattooed lady in the world.” A painting by tattoo artist Ace Harlyn depicting famed Bowery tattooer Charlie Wagner tattooing Mildred Hull – the “first and only tattooist woman on the Bowery” – shows some of the 300+ tattoos she created on herself. The exhibition also addresses tattooing as an art form that enabled women to challenge gender roles and turn tattoos into signs of empowerment.”

This posting includes extra information on the people featured and a wonderful song about Charlie Wagner’s tattoos – the Bowery neighbourhood, where his studio was located, being “a hotbed of tattoo culture in the 1920s-30s.”

Enjoy!

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the New-York Historical Society for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

John Simon (c. 1675-1751) after John Verelst (1648-1734) 'Sa Ga Yeath Qua Pieth Tow, King of the Maquas' 1710

 

John Simon (c. 1675-1751) after John Verelst (1648-1734)
Sa Ga Yeath Qua Pieth Tow, King of the Maquas
1710
Mezzotint
New-York Historical Society Library

 

 

A new exhibition at the New-York Historical Society will examine three centuries of tattooing in New York, including the city’s central role in the development of modern tattooing and the successive waves of trend and taboo surrounding the practice. Tattooed New York, on view February 3 – April 30, 2017, will feature more than 250 works dating from the early 1700s to today – exploring Native American body art, tattoo craft practiced by visiting sailors, sideshow culture, the 1961 ban that drove tattooing underground for three decades, and the post-ban artistic renaissance.

“We are proud to present Tattooed New York and offer our visitors an immersive look into the little-known history of modern tattooing,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. “At the convergence of history and pop culture, the exhibition will track the evolution of this fascinating form of self-expression and the city’s influence on the phenomenon.”

Tattooed New York will explore early communities of body art aficionados – such as Native Americans, sailors and soldiers, society women, and “tattooed ladies” – as well as examine how identity is expressed through tattoos today. It will follow the evolution of tattoo technology, from pricking and poking techniques to machines; track the rise of New York City’s Bowery neighbourhood as a hotbed of tattoo culture in the 1920s-30s; share the creative and secretive ways that tattooing continued during the ban; and feature artwork by some of the finest New York tattoo artists working today. Tattooed New York is curated by Cristian Petru Panaite, Assistant Curator of Exhibitions at the New-York Historical Society.

Text from the New-York Historical Society

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

 

Installation views of the exhibition Tattooed New York at the New-York Historical Society, New York
Photos: Glenn Castellano, New-York Historical Society

 

 

Exhibition highlights

Among the earliest items in the exhibition are the New-York Historical Society’s Four Indian Kings mezzotints from 1710, featuring portraits of Mohawk and Mohican tribal kings who traveled to London seeking military aid against the French and their Ojibwe allies. The King of the Maquas (or Mohawk tribe) is depicted with black linear patterns covering his chest and lower face. Also on view is a 1706 pictograph by a Seneca trader that represents his distinctive serpent and bird tattoos as his personal signature, one of the earliest recorded in Western accounts. Tattooed New York also features a Native American tattooing kit used for medicinal purposes and a mid-18th century Ojibwe ball club with carvings suggestive of tattoo patterns that likely adorned the warrior’s body.

As soldiers and sailors traveled the world in the early 19th century, tattoos served as mementos of faraway lands, good luck charms, and protection against induction into the British Royal Navy. Passing through New York, seamen also earned extra money by showing off their tattoos in pop-up sideshows. An early Protection Certificate and a manual tattooing kit belonging to a sailor are featured in the exhibit, along with examples of patriotic and religious art that inspired tattoo designs.

The exhibition charts the evolution of advances in the art of tattooing, many of them pioneered in New York. Martin Hildebrandt, often credited as the first professional tattoo artist in New York City, set up a permanent tattoo business in Lower Manhattan as early as 1859. The trade was revolutionised by Samuel O’Reilly’s invention of the electric tattoo machine on the Bowery in 1891. O’Reilly’s machine was based on Thomas Edison’s Electric Autographic Pen, an example of which is on view. The invention instantly made tattooing cheaper, faster, and more widely available. New York tattooers also changed the way designs were drawn, marketed, and sold. Flash – the sample tattoo drawings that still adorn many studios today – was developed and popularised by Lew Alberts, whose drawings are displayed along with work by Bob Wicks, Ed Smith, and the legendary Moskowitz Brothers.

The exhibition focuses special attention on women and tattoos, from the sideshow era through today. Photographs capture famous sideshow tattooed stars, including Nora Hildebrandt, “the first professional tattooed lady;” La Belle Irene, “the original tattooed lady;” and Lady Viola, “the most beautiful tattooed lady in the world.” A painting by tattoo artist Ace Harlyn depicting famed Bowery tattooer Charlie Wagner tattooing Mildred Hull – the “first and only tattooist woman on the Bowery” – shows some of the 300+ tattoos she created on herself. The exhibition also addresses tattooing as an art form that enabled women to challenge gender roles and turn tattoos into signs of empowerment.

In 1961, New York City’s Health Department declared it was “unlawful for any person to tattoo a human being,” citing Hepatitis B as a concern. The ban sent tattoo artists underground and many continued working quietly from their homes, often taking clients at odd hours of the night. The exhibition features photographs from the apartment studios of Thom deVita and Mike Bakaty and tattoo designs from the era, including some made to be quickly concealed in case of random police raids. The work of fine artists who began to explore tattooing during the ban years will also be on display, including Ruth Marten, Mike Bakaty, and Spider Webb.

The tattoo ban was lifted in February 1997. Today, more than 270 tattoo studios are flourishing across the five boroughs. Footage of tattooing, filmed for the exhibition in several New York studios, demystifies the process. An audio tour invites visitors to listen to the voices of legendary tattoo artists who worked in New York City during the late 20th century. The international reach of New York’s influence on the art world today is demonstrated in works by tattoo artists from Denmark, Japan, Mexico, China, Brazil, the UK, and Italy.
The exhibition closes by depicting some of the ways in which New Yorkers today use tattoos for self-expression and empowerment. Tattoos covering mastectomy scars, for instance, represent a new beginning for breast cancer survivors. Commemorative tattoos worn by survivors of 9/11 are a permanent reminder to “never forget.”

Press release from the New-York Historical Society

 

Thomas Edison (1847-1931) 'Electric pen' 1876

 

Thomas Edison (1847-1931)
Electric pen
1876
Nickel-plated flywheel, cast iron, steel stylus, and electric motor
Collection of Brad Fink, Daredevil Tattoo NYC

 

Charles Eisenmann (1855-1927) 'Nora Hildebrandt' c. 1880

 

Charles Eisenmann (1855-1927)
Nora Hildebrandt
c. 1880
Albumen photograph
Collection of Adam Woodward

 

 

“Then I begin talking about Nora Hildebrandt, the first “official” tattooed woman. She had a short-lived career at Barnum & Bailey’s circus, where she’d show off her tattoos on stage. But a woman named Irene Woodward quickly replaced Nora because she was considered more attractive. This ties into the present – how many of the most famous tattoo artists are heavily sexualised – and it relates to how men fetishise the female body. In the 19th century, people who visited the freak shows could buy cabinet cards – photographs – of these women and bring them home as souvenirs. People would collect them. It was like their version of Instagram followers. Both practices relate to the female body being “circulated” and “owned.””

Anni Irish quoted in the article “The History of Tattooed Ladies from Freakshows to Reality TV,” on the Vice website

 

Unknown photographer. 'La Belle Irene' c. 1880s

 

Unknown photographer
La Belle Irene
c. 1880s

 

'La Belle Irene French postcard' 1890

 

La Belle Irene French postcard
1890

 

Unknown photographer. 'La Belle Irene' c. 1880s

 

Unknown photographer
La Belle Irene
c. 1880s

 

Samuel O'Reilly (1854-1909) 'Eagle and shield' c. 1875-1905

 

Samuel O’Reilly (1854-1909)
Eagle and shield
c. 1875-1905
Watercolour, ink, and pencil on paper
Collection of Lift Trucks Project

 

 

O’Reilly was a New York tattoo artist, who patented the first electric tattoo machine on December 8, 1891. He began tattooing in New York around the mid-1880s. O’Reilly’s machine was based on the rotary technology of Thomas Edison’s autographic printing pen. Although O’Reilly held the first patent for an electric tattoo machine, tattoo artists had been experimenting with and modifying a variety of different machines prior to the issuance of the patent. O’Reilly’s first pre-patent tattoo machine was a modified dental plugger, which he used to tattoo several dime museum attractions for exhibition between the years 1889 and 1891. From the late 1880s on, tattoo machines continually evolved into what we now consider a modern tattoo machine. O’Reilly first owned a shop at #5 Chatham Square on the New York Bowery. In 1904, he moved to #11 Chatham Square when the previous tenant, tattoo artist Elmer Getchell, left the city. Charles Wagner was allegedly apprenticed to O’Reilly and later assumed ownership of his #11 Chatham Square shop. On April 29, 1909, Samuel O’Reilly fell while painting his house and died. He is buried in the Cemetery of the Holy Cross, Section: St. Michaels, Range: 22, Grave: 209 Brooklyn, Kings, NY.

Text from the Wikipedia website

For more information on earl tattoo machines please see the Buzzworthy Tattoo History web page

 

The tattoo industry was “revolutionized overnight,” according to Steve Gilbert’s Tattoo History: A Source Book, which adds that, “O’Reilly was swamped with orders and made a small fortune within a few years.” His electric machine was capable of making many more punctures per minute, and its puncturing was more precise – resulting in more accurate tattoos and less bleeding for the recipient.

Not only was he an innovative craftsman, but Prof. O’Reilly also would become the leading tattoo artist of his era. Perhaps the ultimate confirmation of his talents was that even circus tattoo-freaks sought out his services so they could revivify their illustrated bodies. But as tattoos became more popular, these circus tattoo-freaks were losing business, as their ink-laden bodies were no longer that rare.

O’Reilly’s steadiest source of clientele was the U.S. Navy. In his view, an American sailor without a tattoo was “not seaworthy,” according to Albert Parry’s Tattoo: Secrets of a Strange Art. The inventor’s studio often was packed with young men looking to be “seaworthy.” A shrewd marketer, O’Reilly circulated a pamphlet about tattooed U.S. military members fighting in the Spanish-American War. Part of this pamphlet reads: “Brave fellows! Little fear had they of shot and shell amid the smoke of battle, and after the scrub down they gloried in their tattoos.”

Ray Cavanaugh. “O’Reilly’s Tattoo Machine: Fine Art for the Masses,” on the Irish America website

 

 

Lady Viola the most beautiful TATTOOED WOMAN in the world
c. 1920s

 

 

Lady Viola was born March 27, 1898 in Covington, Kentucky, and her real name Ethel Martin Vangi. She was tattooed in 1920 by Frank Graf and soon became known as “the most beautiful tattooed woman in the world.” Lady Viola worked in museums and participated in the Thomas Joyland Show until 73 years old.

Read more on the Tattoo History A-Z website

 

Unknown photographer. 'Lady Viola (Ethel Vangi)' c. 1920s

 

Unknown photographer
Lady Viola (Ethel Vangi)
c. 1920s

 

Ed Smith (active c. 1920-40) 'Self-portrait showing Rock of Ages back piece' c. 1920

 

Ed Smith (active c. 1920-40)
Self-portrait showing Rock of Ages back piece
c. 1920
Ink on paper
Collection of Adam Woodward

 

Unidentified Maker and Charlie Wagner (1873-1953) 'Statue from Charlie Wagner's tattoo shop at 11 Chatham Square' c. 1930

 

Unidentified Maker and Charlie Wagner (1873-1953)
Statue from Charlie Wagner’s tattoo shop at 11 Chatham Square
c. 1930
Polychromed papier-mâché and linen on wood turned base
Collection of Adam Woodward

 

Bob Wicks (1902-1990) 'Flash sheet #36' c. 1930

 

Bob Wicks (1902-1990)
Flash sheet #36
c. 1930
Pen and watercolour on art board
Collection of Ohio Tattoo Museum

 

Eli Jacobi (1898-1984) 'Tattoo Artist' c. 1935

 

Eli Jacobi (1898-1984)
Tattoo Artist
c. 1935
Lithograph
New-York Historical Society Library

 

Ace Harlyn (active c. 1930-40) 'Charlie Wagner tattooing Millie Hull' 1939

 

Ace Harlyn (active c. 1930-40)
Charlie Wagner tattooing Millie Hull
1939
Oil on canvas
Collection of Brad Fink, Daredevil Tattoo NYC

 

 

Mildred Hull, the mother of modern tattooing during the height of the city’s tattoo boom in the early 20th century, was a woman of many talents. Born in 1897, Hull dropped out of school when she was just 13 years old according to The Tattoo Archive, later on joining the circus [before becoming an exotic dancer] …

According to Untapped Cities, by 1939 Hull had left the circus and had begun to put ink to skin with a little help from her long time tattoo artist, Charlie Wagner. In the following years, Hull elevated her tiny studio, aptly named The Tattoo Emporium, to one of the most renowned tattoo shops anywhere along that infamous stretch of seedy land…

In 1936 Hull graced the cover of Family Circle – tattoos and all – in what became an unprecedented, monumental moment in history, one that until now has gone widely overlooked. It’s important to note that at the time, the magazine’s main mission was to provide women with home economic tips.

“Flash from the Past: Millie Hull,” from the Tattoodoo website

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Millie Hull tattooing in her studio]' Nd

 

Unknown photographer
Untitled [Millie Hull tattooing in her studio]
Nd

 

 

Capt. Don Leslie – Wagner’s Tattooed Lady

I first met her on the Bow’ry at a place called Chatham Square.
It was not her eyes that drew me near, her lips or pretty hair.
It was not her dress of velvet or her patent leather shoes,
But on her hide she wore with pride Charlie Wagner’s tattoos.

Chorus:

Well, red roses she wore on her breast; what a sight!
Oh the colour so vivid, so vivid and bright!
And the blues notes danced ’round about her pretty blouse.
Some say it was a waltz, like Johann Strauss.

I swear on my child and the gold in my teeth
That the memory of that tattooed queen still lingers sweet.
Oh, she came down to Charlie there at Chatham Square
To get tattooed by the master there.

Well, I left the Bowery in ’42,
Stopped my gamblin’ and runnin’ hooch,
But I always dreamed of that tattooed queen
And Charlie Wagner’s fascinating tattoo machines.

Chorus:

Well, red roses she wore on her breast; what a sight!
Oh the colour so vivid, so vivid and bright!
And the blues notes danced ’round about her pretty blouse.
Some say it was a waltz, like Johann Strauss.

I’ve seen beautiful designs like “Duel in the Sun,”
“Rock of Ages,” battleships and military guns.
Well, they all have their place, like a heart with “Mom,”
But Charlie Wagner’s tattooed lady’s still Number One.

They preachers all say, “There’s a land so fair.”
Some folks call it “heaven” or the “golden stair.”
Well, some call it “paradise,” and I really do not care,
For I’d rather be down in Chatham Square.
And, to the right of the throne, are a chosen few:
Picasso, Rembrandt and Michelangelo too.
Hey, let me name them all for you,
And don’t you forget Professor Wagner too.
Some painted on canvas and some on chapel walls.
Their art’s worth millions for fame and all.
But Charlie Wagner’s the king of this man’s dreams,
For he painted the beautiful tattooed queen.

Chorus:

Well, red roses she wore on her breast; what a sight!
Oh the colour so vivid, so vivid and bright!
And the blues notes danced ’round about her pretty blouse.
Some say it was a waltz, like Johann Strauss.

Charlie Wagner, you’re the greatest and there ain’t no doubt.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Charlie Wagner tattooing in his studio]' Nd

 

Unknown photographer
Untitled [Charlie Wagner tattooing in his studio]
Nd

 

Unknown photographer. '"Painless" Jack Tyron tattooed by Charlie Wagner and Lewis (Lew) Alberts' Nd

 

Unknown photographer
“Painless” Jack Tyron tattooed by Charlie Wagner and Lewis (Lew) Alberts
Nd

 

Irving Herzberg (1915-1992) 'Tattoo shop of "Coney Island Freddie" just prior to New York City's ban on tattooing' 1961

 

Irving Herzberg (1915-1992)
Tattoo shop of “Coney Island Freddie” just prior to New York City’s ban on tattooing
1961
Digital print
Brooklyn Public Library

 

 

“A Jewish tattoo artist, Fred Grossman (aka Coney Island Freddie) sued the city for illegitimately crushing his business. (Mike Bakaty, the founder of Fineline Tattoo and an East Village tattoo legend, who died last year, told a journalist that Grossman felt that the Health Department’s motive was to “clean up the city” before showing it off at the 1964 World’s Fair.) Grossman lost, then lost again on appeal. State appellate judge Aron Steuer (the son of Max Steuer, my husband’s cousin who defended the Triangle Factory owners – the New York Steuers were clearly charming people) ruled that the city had the right to decide what was healthy behaviour and what wasn’t. And furthermore, he noted, “the decoration, so-called, of the human body by tattoo designs is, in our culture, a barbaric survival, often associated with a morbid or abnormal personality.” (Another Jewish judge, Samuel Rabin, dissented, saying that “the testimony of the defendants’ medical experts indicates that the practice of tattooing can be safe, if properly conducted in accordance with appropriate principles of asepsis. That being so, I am of the opinion that the outright prohibition of the practice of tattooing is an unwarranted extension of the police power and therefore is invalid.” Medically correct, but societally unpopular.)”

Marjorie Ingall. “Jews and Tattoos: A New York Story,” on the Tablet website

 

Tony D'Annessa (b. 1935) 'Window shade with flash designs from Tony D'Annessa's tattoo shop on W. 48th Street' c. 1962

 

Tony D’Annessa (b. 1935)
Window shade with flash designs from Tony D’Annessa’s tattoo shop on W. 48th Street
c. 1962
Ink outline with markers coloring on vinyl
Collection of Tony D’Annessa and Dave Cummings, PSC Tattoo, Montreal

 

 

Tony D’Annessa just might be Canada’s oldest tattoo artist. Although he is now located in Montreal’s Pointe-Sainte-Charles neighbourhood, Tony started tattooing in New York City way back in the 1950s. This is a short multimedia piece shot at PSC Tattoo.

 

John Wyatt (b. 1942) 'Thom de Vita and client in his studio at 326 E 4th Street' 1976

 

John Wyatt (b. 1942)
Thom de Vita and client in his studio at 326 E 4th Street
1976
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the artist

 

Ruth Marten (b.1949) 'Marquesan Heads' 1977

 

Ruth Marten (b. 1949)
Marquesan Heads
1977
Enamel paint on masonite
Collection of the artist

 

Maury Englander (b. 1943) 'Tattooed family at the first New York City Tattoo Convention' 1998

 

Maury Englander (b. 1943)
Tattooed family at the first New York City Tattoo Convention
1998
Digital print
© Maury Englander, All Rights Reserved

 

 

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
at Richard Gilder Way (77th Street)
New York, NY 10024

Tel: (212) 873-3400

Opening hours:
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Friday – 10am – 8pm
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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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