Jessie Fritsch Encaustics
Greek artists were painting with encaustic as long ago as the 5th century B.C. The history of encaustic began in ancient
Pausias was a Greek painter of the 1st half of 4th century B.C. He was celebrated for his decorative paintings, particularly in encaustic, a method which he is said to have invented. His most famous single work, A Sacrifice, containing an admirably foreshortened and modeled figure of a bull, was preserved until late Roman times in the portico of Pompey's temple in
Phiny the Elder, the Roman historian writer in the first century A.D. mentions encaustic in his book Naturalis Historia. He writes that encaustic was used in a variety of application: the painting of portraits and scenes of mythology on panels, the coloring of marble and terra cotta, and work on ivory. Pliny describes the process in which hot liquid colors were applied to the wall by means of heated irons. The use of encaustic on panel rivaled the use of tempera, which was a faster and cheaper process. Encaustic was a slow, difficult, but the paint could be built up in relief, and the wax gave a rich optical effect to the pigment. These characteristics made the finished work startlingly life-like. Phiny refers to encaustic paintings several hundred years old in possession of Roman aristocrats of his time. He also writes of Pausias and others encaustic painters like Aristeides, who may also be the inventor of encaustic, and Praxiteles who improved the technique.
In 79 B.C. the artists of
A large Greek population had established itself in
In the great period of economic instability that followed the decline of the
In 1503 Leonardo da Vinci was hired by the city of
The first full scale revival of encaustic was in the mid 18th century after the remains of the murals of
It wasn’t until the 20th century that encaustic use was truly revived. With the availability of electrical heating devices encaustic was much more accessible. In the 1920’s Mexican muralist Diego Rivera began using encaustic. In the 1940’s Karl Zerbe, head of Boston Museum School of Art at
The history of contemporary encaustic begins with Jasper Johns who was using encaustic in the 1950’s. After the 1958 other artists such as Lynda Benglis began using wax. In the 70’s sculptor Nancy Graves and installation artist Michele Stuart also began adding wax into their work. Other famous artists who had tried their hand in encaustic are Pablo Picasso, James Ensor, Robert Delaunay, Antoine Pevsner, and Pedro Pruna.
In 1990’s there were two ground-breaking encaustic exhibitions: Contemporary Uses of Wax and Encaustic in Calf. In 1992 and Waxing Poetic: Encaustic Art in the America in
Doxiadis, Euphrosyne. The Mysterious Fayum Portraits: Faces from Ancient
Mattera, Joanne. The Art of Encaustic Painting.
Mayer, Ralph. The Artist’s Handbook of Materials and Techniques. 5th ed.