Tattooing A to Z #12: Peter De Haan – Tattoo Peter

This right-handed tattooist, who died on Saint Patrick’s Day 1984, was listed in the book Art, Sex, Symbol as “Holland’s Premier Artist” and one of the greatest old school tattoo artists of all times. In 1974, when that book was published, it was not far off the mark. Peter de Haan was known in the tattoo business as “Tattoo Peter”.

He was born on July 13, 1925 in Beverwijk and grew up in Ijmuiden, a shermen village. His real name was Peter de Haan. Little is known about Tattoo Peter’s early life, but he probably started tattooing by hand as a seaman. When he was 17 years old, he lost his leg during World War 2. After the war Peter was always hanging around ports in the Netherlands. There he met Albert Cornelissen, who tattooed in Rotterdam: he began to build an interest for tattooing and also learned tattooing from Albert Cornelissen.

In the 50’s Peter quickly became famous by tattooing in many Dutch bars and ports. He also traveled to different countries to learn more techniques. After traveling for a few years he opened his first shop in 1955, located on the St. Olofssteeg, in Amsterdam. In the following years he became busier and busier, this was because Amsterdam was a lively port and his was the only shop in Amsterdam. He also worked with a lot of famous artists like Herbert Ho mann who had a shop in Hamburg. The Tattoo Club of America’s newsletter dated October 1964 indicated that in 1961 Tattoo Peter went to work with Tattoo Ole in Copenhagen and that Peter had been tattooing for 30 years before joining Ole. It is unclear when Tattoo Peter left Copenhagen, but he worked in at least two locations in Amsterdam, at St. Olofssteeg and later at Nieuwe Brugsteeg 28. Peter was a fair-skinned, bell-shaped man with a pleasant, clean-shaven face and lustrous, slicked-back hair. He usually wore dark trousers and sat with his one leg facing the entrance to the tattoo parlor.

Tattoo Peter, watercolor by Pepe
Tattoo Peter, watercolor by Pepe

Peter made his own machines: they had a big, strong wooden grip to keep on handling them even when they would literally “burn”, due to the electricity (24 volts straight from the wall!). As many other tattooists, he had a row of machines, one for every color. Needles weren’t changed. Peter’s tattooing style was classic old school, bold line and solid color with primary colors. Like Tattoo Ole, Tattoo Peter’s tattooing was influenced by the American master August “Cap” Coleman of Norfolk VA. Peter used to tattoo designs from the sailor’s tradition, just like Herbert Hoffmann, Ole Hansen, Christian Warlich and Sailor Jerry Collins.

Tattoo Peter died on 17 march 1984. The shop still exists and is one of the oldest in Europe.

Tattoo Peter, via Pinterst
Tattoo Peter, via Pinterst