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Tattooing to Perfection

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Welcome to Tattooing to Perfection! The fascinating illustrated story of the life and tattoo art of John Thompson Clark, who was likely the first professional tattoo artist in South Africa in the early 1900s.  Born in England, he was known professionally as Professor Clark. His tattooed wife, Bertha, who survived the horrific Galveston Storm of 1900, worked under the name of Princess Beatrice. 


Clark was a friend and business colleague of George Burchett, the famous London tattoo artist.  This book showcases one of the most complete collections from an early 1900s tattoo artist.  Clark was not as well known as some of his contemporaries because he worked primarily in South Africa but now he can claim his rightful spot in tattoo history.

This new book was written by Judith Lukas and Nicholas York, with a foreword by Derin Bray. 

Selected Pages

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About the book

John Clark left England as a young man and made his way to Galveston, Texas, a booming vibrant city at the time, where he raised chickens, delivered furniture, sometimes drank too much and occasionally got in trouble.  In 1900 he traveled to South Africa to fight in the Second Anglo-Boer War and spent nearly the next 14 years there.  Professor Clark had tattoo shops in several South African cities, ending up in Johannesburg where he picked locations in the heart of the bustling city.  He worked with George Burchett for a few years and sold his final shop on Rissik Street to Burchett when he returned to the United States.

Clark is famous for the portrait of Paul Kruger, President of the South African Republic, that was tattooed on the top of his head by George Burchett.  Later, Burchett fully tattooed Clark so he could exhibit as well as tattoo clients.  Back in the States, Professor Clark toured with Ringling Brothers in the summer of 1914 and was often billed as the “Famous South African Tattooed Man.”

This book includes the extraordinary life stories of John and Bertha Clark with photos and documentation of both the ordinary and the spectacular,  The extensive art section includes works and designs of Professor Clark in the form of travel books, shop posters and tattoo flash.  Included are also travel books in use at the time and other designs obtained by Clark for exhibit and design suggestions for clients.

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