There are museums all over the world that are homes to thousands of paintings and sculptures that have defined the art world throughout history. From Van Gogh's famous post-impressionist paintings to Michelangelo's Renaissance work, these famous artworks have become more than things to look at—they've become part of our greater culture.
It's often a difficult task to re-create these famous artworks in tattoo form. Some pieces require immense detailing, while others use colors that seem to run into each other—a hard effect to achieve with tattoo ink. However, experienced and talented tattoo artists have managed to translate these works of art into pieces of ink that can be regarded in the same way.
Whether you're looking for inspiration or you just want to see some living art, here are 15 tattoos based on famous works of art.
Magritte “The Lovers” Dotwork Tattoo
René Magritte’s “The Lovers” is a famous piece featuring two lovers kissing, both with a sheet over their head. While the painting uses a lot of realism, when translating it to a tattoo, try mixing up the styles to fit your preferences—like how this design uses dotwork to achieve the overall image.
Munch "The Scream" Tattoo
“The Scream” by Edvard Munch is another painting that you don’t have to be an art history buff to know. The painting makes for a great tattoo, as it has a familiar sense to it, and the design creates bright colors and flowing lines that blend seamlessly into one another.
Jackson Pollock Tattoo
Jackson Pollock’s splatter art looks as good sprawled across a gigantic canvas as it does tattooed onto your skin! The abstract expressionism of his work manages to translate into ink form, and the generality of his work means you can base a tattoo on a specific piece or create your own in homage.
Keith Haring Figure Tattoo
Keith Haring's work with small, animated figures is both his most famous work and his most prolific. His artwork consists of a number of simplified figures in motion, making it easy to choose one or two figures to get tattooed, rather than a whole piece (many of which were huge to begin with).
Cabanel "The Fallen Angel" Tattoo
Sometimes the reason for admiring a painting isn’t only because of the artist behind it but because of the emotion it conveys. This tattoo, which depicts "The Fallen Angel" by Alexandre Cabanel, is bursting with pain and anguish from the main figure’s face, creating an overall sense of emotion and realism.
Georgia O'Keeffe Flower Tattoo
Georgia O’Keeffe is known for creating large, cascading flower paintings that fold in realistic ways. In this tattoo, the large floral elements manage to avoid seeming overwhelming with the use of negative space and a confined area.
Degas "The Star" Ballerina Tattoo
Degas is famous for his painting involving dancers, and his figures manage to be realistic enough while remaining stylized. This specific dancer is from “The Star,” which features a ballerina completing a solo dance, and could represent either a love for the artist, the idea of being in the spotlight, or even the theme of isolation.
Basquiat Crown Tattoo
Basquiat’s work used bright colors and erratic lines, but he did manage to create a signature symbol: the crown. Keep it a simple shape and use excess or slightly misplaced lines to mimic the artist’s style.
Bosch “The Garden of Earthly Delights” Tattoo
Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights” is an overwhelming, multifaceted piece that depicts the creation of an earthly paradise by God. Because there are an exorbitant amount of figures within the painting, anyone can find a figure they connect to—like the multi-armed owl figure featured here.
Renoir "Little Irene" Tattoo
Pierre Renoir’s work is made up of a lot of brushstrokes, intended to create a soft, dynamic effect. That’s not the easiest thing to translate to a tattoo, but if created by an experienced artist, the resulting work will be both realistic and slightly-blurred—like the “Little Irene” ink shown here.
Wassily Kandinsky is known for helping to pioneer abstract art, and his work consists of brightly colored and bold lines and shapes that create both sensical and nonsensical arrangements. Because his work is so abstract, creating your own Kandinsky-esque design will create the intended impact just as much as inking an actual piece of his art.
Basquiat’s work is fairly abstract. While it draws from human figures and real life, his style transforms them into basic, bold shapes. These images can easily be inked thanks to their simplicity, but getting the arrangement to look pleasing is hard and it is what makes Basquiat’s work so famous.
Monet Water Lilies Tattoo
Monet’s water lilies series is some of his most famous work, and pieces can be seen in museums all over the world. While impressionism isn’t an easy style to re-create in ink, when the soft look combines with bold colors, it makes for a statement tattoo.
Picasso "Weeping Woman" Tattoo
Pablo Picasso is known for this cubist work, which broke figures down to their basic shapes without losing sight of what they are. This piece, “Weeping Woman,” features a woman crying, but her face has been abstracted into triangles and squares, though it still manages to portray the same scene and emotion.
Henri Matisse’s work was famous for its bold shapes and bright colors, though a few specific images of his work have become widely known—like the female figure in this tattoo. Despite being inked in black rather than Matisse’s signature color, the flow of the shape and the overall image still strongly connect to the artist’s original work.