George Burchett

george burchett by ronald searle

George Burchett (1872 – 1953), known as ‘Professor Burchett’ and the ‘King of Tattooists,’ is a renown English tattoo artist. Having been expelled from school at 12 for tattooing his classmates, he joined the Royal Navy at 13, developing his skills while travelling overseas as a deckhand on the HMS Vincent. After absconding from the Navy, he returned to England, where he was trained in tattoo artistry in London by the legendary English tattooist Tom Riley (who invented the modern tattoo machine).

With a studio on Mile End Road, London, Burchett became the first star tattooist and a favourite among the wealthy upper class and European royalty. Among his customers were King Alfonso XIII of Spain, King Frederick IX of Denmark and the ‘Sailor King’ George V of the United Kingdom. He also tattooed sideshow performer, Horace Ridler (‘The Great Omi’). He constantly designed new tattoos from his worldwide travel, incorporating African, Japanese and Southeast Asian motifs into his work. In the 1930s, he developed cosmetic tattooing with such techniques as permanently darkening eyebrows.

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