Thoughts for Collectors of Encaustic
Durability and Longevity: Painting with beeswax may seem like a delicate, ephemeral, impermanent thing. In fact, encaustic painting --using a medium that mixes beeswax with tree resin and natural pigments-- has been documented back to fifth century BC in Greece. Beeswax mixed with pitch was used by the Greeks to waterproof their ships, and later, this simple wax medium was mixed with pigments to create paints that were used to decorate warships before battle.
In Egypt, encaustic paint was used in a stunning collection of funerary portraits called the Fayum Portraits (click here to read about them). These painted wood panels have lasted, in all their luminous glory, almost 2000 years. This amazing body of portraits show likenesses that are remarkably characterful highlighting the diverse humanity and personality of people who lived thousands of years ago. The encaustic portraits are among the best, the colors still vibrant, untouched by centuries, surviving as a testament to the durability and longevity of this venerable and very natural aesthetic medium.
Encaustic in modern art: Paul Klee experimented with encaustic. He often mixed the beeswax with sand to make a highly textured paint as seen in his 1932 painting "Two Heads". Diego Rivera used encaustic in his early paintings and some very large scale murals. Jasper Johns delved deeply into encaustic materials and technique for several of his most famous paintings. His piece "Flag" (encaustic, oil, newspaper, and fabric on plywood, 1954-55) sold in at Christie's in New York in 2010 for a record $28 million.