Neo Traditional Tattoos | Guide On History, Influences, and Artists

Often in tones that recall Victorian velvets or East Coast hues of October’s fall leaves, Brilliant and dramatic colours merged with lavish details like pearls and fine lace: when one thinks of Neo-Traditional tattoos, this is often what comes to mind. Perhaps the lushest and extravagant aesthetic in the tattoo community, this particular style blends the techniques of neo-American traditional tattooing with a rich history of arts and crafts. In this guide, we examine the history, influences, and artists who call the Neo Traditional method part of their own.

History and Influences of Neo Traditional Tattoos

Neo-Traditional actually does keep in line with many of the technical rules of neo-traditional tattoo style, though it may sometimes seem a far cry from American Traditional, regardless of its name. Black outlines are common as are larger designs that read well from a distance and Line width may vary. Some of the commonalities are clarity of composition, the importance of a black carbon barrier to hold colour, as well as common themes. 

Neo Traditional Tattoos

Where Neo-Traditional tattoos tend to differ is their penchant for lush details and striking colours. Part of this is because of stylistic influences from past art movements that have inpired many neo-traditional tattoo artists.

Perhaps Art Nouveau is the first historical artistic movement that is immediately apparent in the Neo-Traditional style. But, one must first understand the context and symbolism behind that which sparked the movement to flourish to understand Art Nouveau. Japan had closed its doors to the rest of the globe, in 1603. 

Due to pressure from outside forces, the floating world was intent on protecting and preserving their culture which, was being greatly threatened. However,  in 1862, over 250 years later,40 Japanese officials were sent to Europe to discuss the opening of Japan’s closely guarded gates. Goods from the two countries began to cross oceans and lands to eagerly awaiting fingertips in order to ease tensions between countries and sustain healthy trading relationships.

In Europe, the interest in Japanese goods was almost fetishistic, and the craftsmanship of the country came to greatly influence future artistic aesthetics.  One can see Japanese artwork greatly informing the works of Monet, Degas, and Van Gogh, In the late 1870s and ’80s. Masters of Impressionism eagerly adapted Eastern artistic philosophies into their own work using flattened perspectives, patterns, and even props such as painted fans and beautifully embroidered kimono. 

Van Gogh is even quoted as saying, “We wouldn’t be able to study Japanese art, it seems to me, without becoming happier and more cheerful, and it makes us return to nature…” This influx of Japonisme, and a return to nature, was to spark the next movement to have the greatest effect on contemporary neo-traditional tattoo style.

Art Nouveau, in use and most popular during the years of 1890 to 1910, continues to inspire artists today, including neo-traditional tattoo artists. The neo-traditional tattoo style was highly influenced by the Eastern artworks being exhibited in Europe at the time. The obsession with Japanese aesthetics was in full swing, within Art Nouveau, and one can see similar color stories and line work that are much like Ukiyo-e woodblock prints.

The movement informed architecture, interior design, and more and Not just confined to aspects of 2D visual art. Refinement and Beauty, graceful filigree-esque details, all wonderfully merged with portraits usually set against a background of lush florals and nature scenes. 

The best example of this amalgamation of art forms is perhaps in Whistlers ‘The Peacock Room’, finished in 1877, which is gilded and decorated with a wonderful sense of Asian elements. However, Aubrey Beardsley and Alphonse Mucha are the best neo-traditional tattoo artists famed of the Art Nouveau artists. In fact, many Neo-Traditional tattoos replicate Mucha’s posters and advertisements either directly or in subtle detailing.

The next movement that replaced Art Nouveau was Art Deco.  Art Deco was the aesthetic of a new age with slicker, more modernized, and less romanticized, lines. Still often exotic in nature, it was more refined than which was still bathed in the excesses of Victorian culture, Art Nouveau,. 

Due to the Jazz Age eruption that was greatly supported by the energy of younger generations still recovering from the depressions of World War I, Egyptian and African influences can be seen. Although Art Deco has not informed Neo-Traditional tattoos as much as Art Nouveau, much of the passion, flair, and fire of Neo Trad is gleaned from this particular cultural movement. However, Neo Traditionalism has a striking foundation in art history, craft, and design, that creates powerful eye-catching ink, with both of these styles in its back pocket.

Neo Traditional Tattoo Artists

Though many modern tattooists have tried to master neo-traditional tattoo style, none have been so successful as Antony Flemming, Miss Juliet, Jacob Wiman, Jen Tonic, Hannah Flowers, Vale Lovette, and Heath Clifford. The stylings of Deborah Cherrys, Grant Lubbock, Arielle Gagnon, Sadee Glover, Chris Green and Mitchell Allenden are also there. Thought each of these neo-traditional tattoo artists

work within the field of neo-traditional tattoo style, they all bring to it a unique and distinct flavour to the style. 

Heath Clifford and Grant Lubbock both concentrate on bold animal concepts, while Antony Flemming and Arielle Gagnon, though also both enthusiastic about neo-traditional animal tattoo, often infuse their pieces with ornamental details such as pearls, gems, crystals, lace, and metalwork. 

For her gorgeous portraiture of nymphettes and goddesses, Hannah Flowers is known. She is also greatly influenced by Klimt and Mucha; their work is regularly referenced within her Neo Traditional tattoos. Vale Lovette is perhaps most highly regarded for her large blackwork pieces which are saturated with Art Nouveau stylings frequently in the forms of filigree and architectural ornamentation, while also being an illustrator of animals and women.

It is perhaps worth noting that tattooing styles are best when they have the historical foundation of incredibly successful and appreciated art movements, like those of neo-traditional tattoo style. Whether bedecked in the beautiful glow of white highlighted pearls, or awash in the warm and magnificent colors of cold weather, or set in a garden blessed by golden filigree and luxuriant flowers, Neo-Traditional tattoos are known for their dense and richly sumptuous aesthetic. , it is a welcome mainstay within the tattoo communities vast and diverse portfolio of stylistic offering and is not a trend.