San Francisco's 'father of modern tattooing' dies at age 87

San Francisco tattoo artist Lyle Tuttle passed away peacefully Monday at the age of 87.

Tuttle has been called one of the most important American tattoo artists of all time and is known as the “father of modern tattooing.”

He worked as an artist for more than 70 years in several parlors around San Francisco. His final studio located at 841 Columbus Ave. in North Beach is also a museum displaying tattoo ephemera.

“Lyle inspired so many of us with his joy for living, his boundless creativity, humor, and unconditional friendship,” a statement posted on Tuttle’s Instagram page reads. “He will always be our favorite tattooed prince. He lifted us with the magic in his soul and his bright spirit across oceans, time and space.”

Tuttle grew up in Ukiah and got his first tattoo at age 14 on a visit to San Francisco; he had a heart inscribed with “Mother.” He went on to have 95 percent of his body — basically everything up to his neck — covered in illustrations.

ALSO: Lyle Tuttle, early tattoo artist, leaves indelible mark on society

Tuttle became known as the tattoo artist to the stars and left his mark on Cher, Henry Fonda, Joan Baez, the Allman Brothers and Jim Croce. In 1970, he most famously inked a bracelet around Janis Joplin’s wrist and placed a heart on her breast.

“The heart was very small, but it made history. Joplin became ‘the world’s first tattooed celebrity,’ according to the website Tattoodo,” Carl Nolte once wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Tuttle appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone and was credited with putting tattooing on the map. Tattoos soon became a symbol of the women’s liberation movement.

An Associated Press article in 1973 reported on the tattoo trend among women: “Wherever tattooing is legal, Mr. Tuttle says, women are getting tattooed on their wherevers; more so in Chicago, for instance, than, say, in New York, where tattooing is banned for fear dirty needles might spread infection; but certainly in San Francisco, where Tuttle works on the second floor next to the bus station, in a spacious parlor with sterilized equipment and a city health certificate on the wall.”

This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Lyle-Tuttle-tattoo-artist-dies-Janis-Joplin-SF-13720055.php.

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