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Marbling is the skill that creates an imitation of marble. It is hand painted on surfaces such as panels, columns, furniture, and fireplaces and once finished and protected, will last for years to come, and can fool the eye into believing that the painted marble is real.
Marbling is the preparation and finishing of a surface to imitate the appearance of polished marble. It is typically used in buildings where the cost or weight of genuine marble would be prohibitive. Faux marbling is a special case of faux painting used to create the distinctive and varied patterns of marble - the most imitated stone by far. It is a method of aqueous surface design, which can produce patterns similar to smooth marble or other stone. The marble patterns are reproduced by hand using various brushes and tools, tube colours in water or oil mediums, made into scumbles or gilp.
The sophistication of the techniques are such that visitors are frequently unable to distinguish between false and real marble in many churches, palaces and public buildings in Europe.
The art of marbling and graining reached its high point in Britain between 1845 and 1870, and during this period the acknowledged master was Thomas Kershaw (1819-1898) was a leading British pioneer of marbling, the creation of imitation marble finishes.
He was born in Standish, Lancashire and from the age of 12 served his time as an apprentice to John Platt, a Bolton painter and decorator. During this time he bought graining tools with money earned from painting pictures and developed his skills in the art of wood graining. On completion of his apprenticeship he moved firstly to Manchester, then York and finally in 1845 to London. There he was employed by William Cubitt and Company becoming their leading wood grainer.
In the mid-1840s he left Cubitts to be independent and exhibited his imitation marble panels at the Great Exhibition of 1851, which won him a prize. At the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1855 he won a gold medal, and felt obliged to carry out public demonstrations of his craft in the exhibition hall after accusations that he was using some type of fraudulent transfer technique. On his return he bought a house in Baker Street and set up his own specialist decorating company.
He was given several lucrative contracts, including one from the Royal family to marbleise the columns at Buckingham Palace and Osbourne House. In 1862 he won another gold medal at the London Exhibition and was elected a liveryman in the Painter-Stainers Company for thirty-eight years. In 1860 he was granted the Freedom of the City of London. He died a rich man in 1898.
In modern times, William Holgate (1931-2002) from Clitheroe, Lancashire, was possibly the finest grainer and marbler in the world since Thomas Kershaw held the title 150 years before. His achievements include the prestigious award known as the "Freedom of the City and Guilds of London" and he was very proud to be made "A Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Painter Stainers of Trinity Lane, London," on March 14, 1995. He was also given the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2001 Paris Salon.
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