Recently, we’ve noticed an uptick in fine art tattoo designs. Near daily, we’ll scroll through the ‘gram and see tattoos inspired by the works of classic artists like da Vinci, Monet, Basquiat, or Picasso (and the list goes on). We get it—if you’re an art lover, why wouldn’t you want your favorite piece of art decorating your body forever? Plus, tattoos are a lot more affordable than owning an artist’s original work (since art is expensive AF). So, whether you’re into surrealism or impressionism, or prefer still lifes, or abstract portraits, or even politically-driven artwork, we have the fine art tattoo inspiration you need. Below are 22 tattoos based on the works of some of the world’s most famous artists.
1. Claude Monet
Name a more perfect pair than Claude Monet’s paintings and watercolor tattoos—we’ll wait. This fine art tattoo design by Eunyu, resident artist at Seoul’s Studio by Sol who specializes in watercolor designs, renders just a sliver of one Monet’s 250 “Water Lilies” paintings. And can we take a moment to appreciate this placement, too? Many people believe that neck ink is aggressive, but this neck tattoo defies that old school taboo.
These beautiful brushstrokes are also straight out of Monet’s “Water Lilies”. The stunningly muted quality of the blues and pinks in this full sleeve tattoo by Chicago-based artist Esther Garcia is mainly thanks to the tattooer’s technique, but also likely due to the piece’s age. This tattoo is seven years old, which gives it a slightly faded quality that makes it even more dreamy.
2. Salvador Dalí
Time is a constant in our lives. We count minutes, hours, days, months, and years. We arrive “on time,” relish in “spare time,” and even “run out of time.” But time feels irrelevant when admiring this dotwork tattoo of a melting stopwatch. Done by Mexican tattooer Rodrigo Salcedo Velarca, the mildly unsettling, surrealist scene is inspired by Salvador Dalí’s most famous painting (the painting that made the artist famous): “The Persistence of Memory.”
3. Henri Matisse
Did you know that Matisse’s famous lithograph cut-outs were the result of his limited physical abilities after surgery to treat stomach cancer? The artist had less range of motion but still wanted to create, so he adapted his art to suit his new lifestyle. He would cut up painted paper and arrange it into works of art including the pieces in his series “Blue Nudes“, which inspired this minimal fine art tattoo done by Brazilian tattooer Letícia Gadelha.
This tattooist behind this design tells us that she played around with the floral shapes from Matisse’s “The Sheaf” to create a unique composition reflective of her client’s cheerful energy. “I see myself as an image sampler,” Mab Matiere Noire, who is currently tattooing out of Brussels, Belgium, explains, “so I like to use traditional designs from the history of tattooing and elements from modern art. I also enjoy using patterns in my designs to bring rhythm to the composition, so I started using these Matisse cut-out leaves as a way to bring some tempo to my designs.”
4. Jackson Pollock
If you’re looking for something a little more abstract, Jackson Pollock‘s work is the perfect fine art tattoo inspiration. This forearm piece by Anton Senkov, a Polish artist who actually specializes in traditional Japanese tattoo design, is based on Pollock’s signature expressionist splatter style.
5. Sandro Botticelli
Done in his signature minimal, abstract, and surreal style, this piece by Alex Abbey (AKA @alexsappy), resident artist at our very own Inside Out studio, is a unique take on Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus.” The combination of bright colors and a more playful composition is gorgeous, and does a great job of honoring the Roman goddess of love and beauty.
Montreal’s Nathan Leblanc-Limoges is known for his hyper-detailed realism tattoos, many of which are based on the works of classic artists. In addition to this piece, which is also inspired by Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus”, he’s tattooed takes on art by Peter Paul Rubens, William Adolphe Bouguereau, and Gustav Klimt, among others. “As an academic drawer, I have great admiration towards artists like Botticelli, who mastered human proportion and were able to distort them to their will in order to create great, almost surreal beauty,” he tells Inside Out.
6. Vincent van Gogh
It feels only right that a list of tattoos based on the works of classic artists would include a piece inspired by the inimitable Vincent van Gogh. Done by Ali Dündar, a realism tattooist and resident artist at Tattoom Gallery in Istanbul, this colorful, picturesque European café is her take on van Gogh’s 1888 painting “Café Terrace at Night.”
Another perfect neck piece, this fine art tattoo by Toronto-based artist Brittany Randell zones in on the hands in Michelangelo’s painting, “The Creation of Adam”. In the original piece, which rests on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, Italy, these hands are attached to two full figures: god, whose hand is on the right, and Adam (as in Adam and Eve).
Part man, part flowers, this thigh tattoo is a twist on Michelangelo’s “David”, the famous 17-foot marble sculpture of a biblical hero. Jessica Wulff, the tattooer behind this piece, is known to combine styles—usually she mixes engraving style and more traditional linework—and often breaks up well-known figures with florals, like she did with David here (she’s done it with Athena and Lady Justice, too).
8. Leonardo da Vinci
In its original form, Mona Lisa’s face already implies some subtle sass, but the superimposed sucker on this fine art tattoo by Tel Aviv’s Edit Ben Gida (AKA Edit Paints), resident artist at Gida Tattoo, adds a little extra. The piece was inspired by the work of Nirvana Kamala, better known as @radioshead, an Instagram artist who creates collages combining classic artwork with photos from pop culture.
Have you ever gotten two tattoos in a single day? This client did, and their pieces work together wonderfully. “That da Vinci image [which is based on his painting “Head of a Woman”] represents that intangible beauty can be made tangible through art,” explains Juan Pablo, tattooer at Fury Art Studio in Chile. “And on the other hand, that phrase is from Irish philosophy and means that in the end everything will work out.”
9. Johannes Vermeer
As artists themselves, tattooers are always careful to respect the original artwork when recreating a classic, even when they put their own unique twist on it. Take this glitchy rendering of Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” for instance. “For this tattoo I played with the image to create something original and new, but always respecting the original painting,” Luca Arancio, the artist who tattooed this piece, tells us. “I don’t like to modify an artwork. This was a good [way] to reinterpret without changing the principal subject.”
10. Gustav Klimt
“This Kiss” is Klimt’s most famous work, and we can see why—it’s a picturesque depiction of love and intimacy that makes us feel all the feels. We love it in its original form, but we’re also here for this dreamy representation of the painting in tattoo form, done in Mira Mariah’s signature swirling fineline style.
There are a lot of great tattoo artists working in South Korea (if you’re interested in seeing some of our favorites, we put together this handy list of South Korean tattoo artists to watch) and one of them is Jenny, the tattooer behind this piece. The colorful tattoo is a celestial twist on “The Kiss”, with the sun and the moon smooching, a concept that was requested by the client.
11. Balthasar van der Ast
South African tattooist Tamar Thorn says that when her client came to her with a custom tattoo request of a Balthasar van der Ast painting, she was over the moon with excitement. “I spent a long time painting portraits and studying the masters in previous years, so the idea of painting on skin in this way was a challenge I was very keen to tackle,” she tells Inside Out. “This piece took around five or six sessions to complete which takes a lot of patience from the client and the artist, but because we didn’t rush and made sure the color was saturated it healed perfectly. This will always be one of my favorite pieces.”
12. Pablo Picasso
Simple, minimal sketch work has a big impact in this Picasso-inspired fine art tattoo by Georgia, a Brighton-based artist who has actually tattooed several versions of this woman’s face. “But this one’s special,” she says. “Its wearer got in touch asking for me to put my touch on it by way of the color pops. It combines her love of this art [with] a favorite poem about sunrises and sunsets, hence the color palette of the spheres.”
San Francisco’s Joey Cassina, resident artist Ocean Avenue Tattoo, does a lot of Picasso-inspired designs. “I’m inspired by all modern painters,” he says, although he does have a preference for “looser styles where the subject matter doesn’t have to be anatomically correct [that] are drawn much quicker and free.”
13. Frida Kahlo
Frida Khalo is known for her captivating self-portraits, so it makes sense that a tattoo of her artwork might double as a tattoo of the painter herself. Here, Pauline, a South Korean artist who specializes in fineline sketch style design, tattooed a resting Kahlo in her signature flower crown.
14. Jean-Michel Basquiat
This shoulder tattoo honors African-American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, and was done by a South Korean tattooer known as “Young One,” who says that he loves the artist’s work. “[Basquiat] expressed his profound thoughts as playful pieces. Like a joke,” he says. “I like his painting and drawing style and get energy from his art.”
Parisian tattooer Carlo Amen tells us that the idea for this piece started when a client asked them to reproduce part of a Basquiat painting. They became incredibly interested in all of the hidden meanings within the original piece—and how they could reinterpret them. The theme of the piece is “capitalism and all the mysticism around it,” he explains. He included images that would relate back to the “obsession humans have with money and power, including the devil with ‘666’ and the social ladder that everyone wants to climb,” he says. “I think everyone can imagine their own interpretation of the design. That’s the idea. And this is my interpretation of capitalism.”