The King of Tattooists – George Burchett was born in Brighton in 1872 and still remains one of Great Britain’s most famous tattooers nearly 150 years on. Burchett’s interest in tattooing started at a young age; he was kicked out of school at the age of 11 for experimenting on his classmates with a sewing needle and soot.
In his early teens he joined the Navy, where some of the older sailors taught him more about tattooing. Many tattooers from the late 19th and early 20th century learned their craft in the forces, and picked up inspiration and knowledge from everywhere they travelled. George’s biggest influence on his work came from his visits to Japan around 1890, which can be easily seen in his paintings and tattoos.
Burchett’s combination of Japanese and British tattooing, both in style and themes, is easily recognisable. He continued to tattoo traditional western images, but became more famous for his dragons, geishas and birds of paradise. His bold but delicate work was more artistic than what a lot of other tattooers were producing at the time.
Around the turn of the century Burchett went AWOL from his ship and returned to London where he set up his shop on Waterloo Road. Both the shop and George gained quite a reputation, perhaps most famously for tattooing King George V. Another one of his most well known clients was Horace Ridler, also known as The Great Omi. He was also a pioneer of cosmetic tattooing
George Burchett continued to tattoo until 1953 when, at the age of 81 he passed away. Some say he was on his way to a tattoo appointment.