Encaustic is beeswax-based paint that is kepy molton on a heated palette. It is applied to the surface and reheated to fuse the paint into a uniform enamel-like finish. Encaustic has a long history, but it is as versatile as any 20th century medium. It can be polished to a high gloss; it can be modeled, sculpted, textured, and combined with collage materials, It cool immediately, so there is no drying time, yet it can always be reworked.
The durability of encaustic is due to the fact that beeswax is impervious to moisture. Because of this it will not deteriorate, it will not yellow, and it will not darken. Encaustic paintings do not have to be varnished or protected by glass.
The 20th century has seen a rebirth of encaustic on a major scale. It is an irony of our modern age, with it's emphasis on advanced technology, that a painting technique as ancient and involved as encaustic should receive such widespread interest.
Earlier attempts to revive encaustic failed to solve the one problem that had made painting in encaustic so laborious - the melting of the wax. The availability of portable electric heating implements and the variety of tools made the use of encaustic more accesible.
"In the 20th Century, the availability of the portable electric heating implements and the variety of tools has made encaustic a far less formidable technique. This factor has created a resurgence of encaustic painting, and it is once again taking its place as a major artist's medium. " Its effects, its visual and physical properties, and its range of textural and color possibilities make it eminately suitable for use in several different contemporary styles of painting that are not adequately served by traditional oil painting process."
- Ralph Mayer, The Artist's Handbook
Early 20th century ventures into encaustic included Jasper Johns, Robert Delaunay and Antoine Pevsner. Diego Rivera returned to it constantly throughout his career.