HOT PURSUIT - Encaustic Paintings - February 2019
ENCAUSTIC PAINTING | PAST & PRESENT
Encaustic painting has been in use since the 5th century B.C. when it was used in a variety of processes from tinting terra cotta to portrait painting. In the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D. Greek painters who had settled in Egypt painted portraits of the deceased that were “placed over the person’s mummy as a memorial”¹ known as the Fayum funeral portraits.
The word encaustic (originally enkaustikos) is a Greek word meaning “to heat or to burn in.” Over time the process developed to incorporate resin and beeswax with pigments to achieve a wide variety of colors. These encaustic materials are heated to a liquid state and then applied to a board or canvas. A variety of tools can be used for application and each layer is fused with heat to adhere to the previous layer.
Encaustic painting saw a revival in both the 18th and 19th centuries but the process remained laborious. By the 20th century the use of encaustic became less daunting with “the invention of portable, electric heating implements.”² Renowned artists such as Jasper Johns, Linda Benglis, Robert Rauschenberg, Nancy Graves and Diego Rivera, to name just a few, all experimented with this medium, moving it outside the realm of painting to be used in a variety of art-making from printmaking and collage to sculpture.
Contemporary artists have picked up where the mid-century modern artists left off and continue to expand upon the possibilities within the medium. Adding a variety of mark making, digital processes and photography into their encaustic work, artists Pamela Beverly-Quigley, Danny Setjo and Douglas Smith provide great examples of the continued evolution of this medium and art form.
— Marianne Bruvel | Curator | Bruvel Fine Arts
References: 1 History of Encaustic, R&F Paints, rfpaints.com | 2 Encaustic Art Institute, eainm.co