Surrealism was an art movement that bloomed in the aftermath of World War I. The juxtaposition of uncommon imagery is a hallmark of this movement with often dreamlike, illogical, and unnerving scenes. Salvador Dalí, René Magritte, Pablo Picasso, and Frida Kahlo were artists who painted in this style and helped imagine a world that is as full of uncertainty as the times.
Surrealist art continues to appeal to people today and influences what types of designs they request for their tattoos. As you might imagine, these tattoos are wonderfully weird and wacky and often offer a touch of whimsy or the uncanny. While we researched this piece, two things became very clear. First, black and grey ink is the preferred color scheme in this mode. Second, human bodies with weird heads that have been transformed into animal faces or other objects are a popular motif. Here are 25 tattoos that celebrate the bizarre and create a stranger reality.
Thanks to Dalí’s famed melting clocks, we find a lot of melty, liquid images that distort the concreteness of materials into ether. This handsome bike tattoo would be nice on its own, but with a melted lower half, it’s far more appealing.
“Hen exploring the Jupiter,” the person who shared this image wrote. We hope that chicken is enjoying their trip to space! This tattoo is not that big, but there is a great deal of detail packed inside.
A common theme in surrealist art is a the separation of the mind from the body. We find a floating head, here, which could symbolize the psyche, hovering over a vague landscape. What do you think all of these eyes are looking for?
In this design, we find a more contemporary approach that marries pop art, hyperrealism, and surrealism into one, very strange portrait. There’s a lot of this that doesn’t make sense, but we’re not mad about it.
This haunting design imagines a bird and a whale traveling through the air together. On the whale, we find a small fishing traveler. This is one very handsome micro tattoo.
This dude went to tip his hat and his head came right off with it. This piece borders on the absurd, as all great surrealist works of art do.
Set the Scene
This bold and black tattoo finds a room floating in space that morphs and shifts as your eye appraises it. The stairs leading to a bust encourage a psychoanalytical reading of this design. Is it a symbol for the ideal self?
A very creepy flying creature with the face of a human looks downright Kafkaesque. Bold shapes and thick black lines give this tattoo a menacing sort of quality that works well for it.
Salvador Dalí would be thrilled to see this reimagining of some of his most iconic imagery. Front and center is the melting clock which are most notable in his painting, The Persistence of Memory.
Slightly terrifying, but handsome nonetheless, we find a person removing a shirt to reveal that there’s no meat left on the bones. Instead, there’s an exposed skeleton.
This very delicate tattoo features a hand with woodgrain holding a bird with a human arm. The arm serving a worm on a platter. There’s plenty of ambiguity here and it’s playful enough that you want to linger on the scene.
Here, we find a balloon that’s been cleanly exploded in half. “It is a design created with the imagination of collecting thoughts into balloons and blowing them into the sky,” the artist who shared it wrote.
In Your Head
This tattoo design looks like nesting dolls but for heads. The overall execution is very neat with sharp lines and dramatic shading.
As Above, So Below
Here we find heaven and hell represented with a burning church in the lower portion of this tattoo. This design is stunning. We love the idea of a soaring fire meeting a waterfall.
This surreal tattoo reads as a love letter to cinema. A woman has got a camera for a head and the wheels of the bike are reminiscent of reels of film. This is a very fun design!
This dream of a tattoo is breathtaking in black and grey. This design clearly evokes a journey to dreamworld. Take a closer look at all of the dots used to shade this tattoo. It’s a marvel!
This sliced up fish reveals a mellow rainbow inside. The design of the fish looks very sharp and tidy and the tiny dots of color inside are a treat. Do you have a rainbow inside you?
“When the rain is over, the sky clears up,” the person who shared this picture wrote. Unlike most of these designs that skew morbid, we find a hopeful image here.
We find a deconstructed skull in the style of M.C. Escher here. The floating stairs that connect the cranium to the jaw is a very interesting idea and you’ll find these stairs as a reoccurring motif in plenty of surrealist art.
Here’s a plantastic design that imagines a Venus fly trap as a head of the character here. Equal parts imaginative and chilling, this tattoo is one of our favorites on this list.
A smiley face replaces a face-face in this playful design that deconstructs representation and the symbolic. What if you looked at yourself in the mirror and saw this smiling back? Better yet, don’t. That’s a terrifying proposition.
This mesmerizing peach cloud is raining silhouettes of humans. We love the way the colors contrast with the center of the design in grey and the outer reaches tinged with warmth.
Here we find a cute little creature sipping a beer on the beach. How do we get on this otter’s level? We love the subtlety in the shading which gives this tattoo an overall soft look.
In this remix, we find Janet Leigh’s iconic scream in the film Psycho, stretched into a distorted portrait. This one is very weird and completely unnerving.
Finally, we leave you with a touch of sunshine. A sunflower grows inside this very neat light bulb. We have a soft spot for designs that mix the industrial with the natural so this is a real winner for us.
There you go! 25 surrealism tattoos that celebrate the bizarre and sublime. We hope you feel inspired by these offbeat designs and will consider creating one for yourself.
Andrew is a Chicago-based writer who enjoys finding the best of the internet, obsessively making lists, and cooking for friends. After studying Film and Art History, he developed a deep love for both topics. Celebrity news, pop culture, and stories that bring people together are his passions.
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