Tattooing became an important feature of Japanese urban popular culture in the early 19th century, influenced strongly by the success of a series of woodblock prints featuring Chinese martial arts heroes with spectacular tattoos, vividly imagined by the artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi. Tattoo artists copied designs from the prints and invented new designs that were, in turn, depicted in later prints. "Under the Skin: Tattoos in Japanese Prints" explores the social background, iconography, and visual splendor of Japanese tattoos through the prints that helped carry the art from the streets of 19th-century Japan to 21st-century tattoo shops all over the world.
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