Home / Art / Art HistoryWhat is Ebru Art? Exploring the Ancient Techniques of “Painting on Water”

What is Ebru Art? Exploring the Ancient Techniques of “Painting on Water”

History

The Ebru craft is believed to date back to the 10th century, with roots in Uzbekistan. Over the next few hundred years, the Silk Road brought it to Turkey, where it evolved into a popular practice by the 16th century.

Ebru Painting Ebru Art Paper Marbling

Photo: By Encyclopaedia Britannica (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1842 edition) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Today, it is considered one of the country’s national arts, as Turkish artists and art lovers alike appreciate the craft not only for its beauty, but for its rich history and role in society. “The knowledge and skills of Ebru artists, apprentices and practitioners are transmitted orally and through informal practical training within master-apprentice relationships,” the UNESCO website explains. “Ebru encourages dialogue, reinforces social ties and strengthens relations between individuals and communities.”

Contemporary Ebru

Many modern-day artists continue to work in the marbling style, both to preserve the centuries-old art form and garner contemporary appreciation for it.

James Mouland

James Mouland is an English artist who learned the art of Ebru in Istanbul. Ranging from stunning works on paper to high-quality luxury items, his beautiful body of work mixes conventional patterns and marbled motifs with contemporary materials and objects.

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Garip Ay

Turkish artist Garip Ay produces classic Ebru paintings with a twist. In addition to crafting traditional pieces, he also creates compositions that feature painted figures in the foreground and architectural elements in the background. By employing Ebru’s marbled designs as backdrops, he creatively breathes new life into the age-old craft.

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Watch Garip Ay use ebru art techniques to create a Vincent van Gogh-inspired painting:

My Modern Met granted permission to use photos by James Mouland and Garip Ay.

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Kelly Richman-Abdou

Kelly Richman-Abdou is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met. An art historian living in Paris, Kelly was born and raised in San Francisco and holds a BA in Art History from the University of San Francisco and an MA in Art and Museum Studies from Georgetown University. When she’s not writing, you can find Kelly wandering around Paris, whether she’s leading a tour (as a guide, she has been interviewed by BBC World News America and France 24) or simply taking a stroll with her husband and two tiny daughters.

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