During his lifetime Christian Warlich became one of the most influential tattoo artists in Europe. He is the first man to use an electrified tattoo machine in Germany, and a pioneer in many aspects.
Christian Warlich (1890-1964) is a tattooist from Hamburg.
He is referred to the man who brought professional tattooing in Germany. Supposedly, Warlich was also the first one to use an electric tattoo machine in Germany.
Warlich is born on January 5th, 1890 and raised in the town of Hannover-Linden. He left his parents’ home at the age of 14. Young Christian went to Dortmund and became a boilermaker. He went to sea and apparently as a result had his first contact with tattoos and tattoo artists in the United States.
A True Legend
Warlich is a true legend in the tattoo scene in Germany. Most noteworthy, he is the one who passed on his craft to another famous artist – the tattoo legend from Hamburg Herbert Hoffmann. Warlich was also the man who gave Hoffmann the dignity title of his “Crown Prince” and successor.
How Tattooing Got to Germany
Of course, there is evidence of early hand-poke tattoos in Germany and Europe in general. However, Christian Warlich is the first one to use a modern electric tattoo machine in the country. How this all began? It is very likely that young Christian himself came into the trade of tattooing completely by chance.
Christian Warlich’s Early Career
After his lengthy apprenticeship as a boilermaker, he went to sea and was able to meet with tattoo artists in the United States. Apparently, he brought back one of the first electric tattoo machines in Europe after getting back on land.
He came back to the port of Hamburg and got married there in 1914. He started tattooing officially a few years after that – in 1919. In the same year, he opened a pub at Kieler Straße 44 in St. Pauli. In addition, there was a separate area at the bar where Warlich tattooed.
Warlich took on tattooing as a very serious business. He also put serious efforts in promoting his store and started a business with distribution of modern tattoo machines and tools from America. A true pioneer of his time – he offered never-seen-before a residue-free and almost completely painless removal of tattoos. For this, he used a special tincture.
Why is Christian Warlich’s work so crucial for the early tattoo scene in Germany? Of course, operating in Hamburg – a port city – had a huge impact on the demand for high-quality tattoos. The ink was an all-time favourite of sailors and servicemen, so Christian had a lot of customers. But his work wasn’t only noticed because of his rather astounding business sense. Warlich’s artistic work was characterized by craftsmanship and high standards.
Unlike many artists of the time, he was constantly striving for improvement of his designs. He often updated and modernized his tattoo flash and image repertoire. Warlich developed brand new designs and collected all kinds of templates with amazing persistence. He consequently researched all kinds of media sources available. Chinese sample books, movie posters, advertising images and everything his fellow sailors would bring from far lands.
A Sense of Community
He also kept in contact with many tattooists and made friends in the trade all over Europe, North America, and Asia. With his tattoo machine distribution, Christian Warlich created a sense of community and exchanged sketches, photographs and celluloid stencils with fellow artists, spreading the growth and development of lots of practices we still see today.
Warlich says he tattooed „everything the male body should express”. For him, this meant politics, eroticism, athleticism, aesthetics, religion. Everything was done in the best available colours of the time, and locations were unlimited. However, he had his limits. „A decent tattooist does not tattoo a face.“ Warlich once claimed.
He worked over 40 years and had more than 50.000 customers. Warlich had some Royal customers, too. Prince Axel and Prince Viggo from the Danish Royal family were among his clientele. Warlich died at work in his tattoo studio and pub in 1964, but is still praised today as “The Man Who Brought Tattooing to Germany”.