Encaustic paint is beeswax based, made molten to apply it. When cooled it will form
an enamel like finish.
The technique has been practised for more than 5000 years by the Ancient Egyptians,
Greeks and Romans in portrait paintings and frescos. Wooden panels were the main
choice of painting surface although linen was also used. Pliny and Dioscorides told
of a process where beeswax was boiled in sea water then strained through cheesecloth
to remove impurities and then left in the sun to bleach it. Next the wax was saponified
(like in soap making) by adding an alkali, strained again through cheesecloth, at
which point oils and egg yolk might be added to help fluidity, after which natural
coloured pigments were added.
The modern movement in encaustic art had its origins in the 19th century particularly
in Germany. However, the major players in the modern movement were in U.S.A. in the
1930’s with the promotion of artistic techniques linked to President Franklin Roosevelt’s
This led to the growth of a strong movement in encaustic art in America right up
to the present day. In recent decades there has been a renewed interest in the medium
in Britain and other parts of Europe