“Tattoo: Flash Art of Amund Dietzel.” The exhibit, which runs to the Fall, celebrates one of tattooing’s most remarkable forefathers, particularly the one hundred years since the Norwegian artist arrived in Milwaukee in 1913 and made it his home.
Dietzel’s studios attracted tattoo collectors far beyond Milwaukee. As the Museum notes, he “helped define the look of the traditional or old school tattoo,” and his tattoo flash remains just as powerful today as it was during the two world wars he tattooed through and the many years afterward until his death in 1974.
I’d venture a guess that, if Dietzel were alive today, he’d be having a laugh at the city’s museum featuring his work, especially as he put up a good fight against the Milwaukee City Council, along with Gib “Tatts” Thomas, when the city banned tattooing in 1967.
There are so many great stories of Amund Dietzel’s life, and they are wonderfully shared in tattooist Jon Reiter‘s book These Old Blue Arms: The Life & Work of Amund Dietzel, which I reviewed here in 2010.
This exhibit is drawn exclusively from the book and Jon’s collection of Dietzel flash, photos and “peripheral Dietzel Studio material.” It should be an excellent show for all tattoo lovers and Americana art buffs.
Here’s more on Dietzel from the museum:
Born in Kristiania, Norway, Dietzel (1891-1974) learned the art of hand-tattooing on a Norway merchant ship. When the ship was wrecked off the coast of Quebec, Dietzel and a few others decided to stay. Dietzel traveled with his close friend William Grimshaw, working carnivals as tattooed men and tattooing between shows.
Passing through Milwaukee at twenty-three, Dietzel decided to make the city his home. He opened a tattoo parlor and soon had a reputation as the region’s premier tattoo artist–and the one to whom World War I and II sailors and Marines went before leaving for battle. In 1964 at the age of seventy-three, Dietzel sold his shop to his friend Gib “Tatts” Thomas. The two worked together in the studio until the city banned tattooing, effective July 1, 1967. “At least it took the city fifty-one years to find out that it doesn’t want me,” said Dietzel.