Home / Learn About Encaustic / Famous Encaustic Paintings and Sculptures in New York City Galleries
famous encaustic paintings in New York City Galleries

Famous Encaustic Paintings and Sculptures in New York City Galleries

This past week I visited MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Seeing famous encaustic paintings and sculptures in person at the galleries was incredibly inspiring.

Famous Encaustic paintings we saw at New York Galleries

[click on the thumbnails to view larger images]

Jasper Johns

Two encaustic paintings by Jasper Johns were on display at MOMA.

Flag (1954) – MOMA
Jasper Johns Encaustic FlagEncaustic, oil, and collage on fabric mounted on plywood, three panels.

“One night I dreamed that I painted a large American flag,” Johns has said of this work, “and the next morning I got up and I went out and bought the materials to begin it.” Those materials included three canvases that he mounted on plywood, strips of newspaper, and encaustic paint—a mixture of pigment and molten wax that has formed a surface of lumps and smears. The newspaper scraps visible beneath the stripes and forty-eight stars lend this icon historical specificity. The American flag is something “the mind already knows,” Johns has said, but its execution complicates the representation and invites close inspection. A critic of the time encapsulated this painting’s ambivalence, asking, “Is this a flag or a painting?”

Target with Four Faces (1955)- MOMA
Encaustic on newspaper and cloth over canvas surmounted by four tinted-plaster faces in wood box with hinged front

“In the mid-1950s Johns incorporated symbols such as numbers, flags, maps, and targets into his paintings. Here, he transforms the familiar image of a target into a tangible object by building up the surface with wax encaustic. As a result, the concentric circles have become less precise and more tactile. Above the target Johns has added four cropped and eyeless faces, plaster casts taken from a single model over a period of several months. Their sculptural presence reinforces the objectness of the painting, particularly as the faces may be shut away in their niches behind a hinged wooden door.”


White Flag (1955) The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art also has works by Jasper Johns on display. There we saw White Flag (1955) and a number of his prints.

Lynda Benglis

Embryo II (1967) – MOMA
Embryo II by Lynda Benglis 1967“Purified and pigmented beeswax and damar resin, and gesso on masonite.”  Lynda Benglis

I’ve been considering sculptural encaustic wondering how far I can build up a piece so I was thrilled to see this piece in person and to realize that MOMA has classified it as a sculpture.

Martin Kline

Nest (2000) – The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Nest - Martin Kline - 2000Encaustic on plywood panel at The Metropolitan Museum of Art – by Martin Kline

Standing in front of this painting I had a delightful conversation with a woman about encaustic. She asked me, “What is encaustic?” She then asked if it is archival and I was able to tell her that downstairs in the Museum are encaustic funeral panels from the first century A.D.

Ancient Encaustic Paintings | Fayum Mummy Portraits

mummy-encaustic-panelProbably the most famous encaustic paintings are the Fayum Funeral Portraits. I had read about them so I was pleased to see some in the museum. The panels are so well-preserved. This mummy is intact with the panel inserted over the face.

Mummy with an Inserted Panel Portrait of a Youth from 1st Century A.D.

mummy with encaustic Funeral Panel

“Other famous artists who had tried their hand in encaustic are Pablo Picasso, James Ensor, Robert Delaunay, Antoine Pevsner, and Pedro Pruna.” [source]

Just walking around galleries studying these famous encaustic paintings and reading the accompanying text can be an art education.


Have you seen famous encaustic paintings?

I saw these paintings in New York City, where have you seen encaustic art?

About Ruth Maude

I enjoy experimenting with a variety of encaustic materials, techniques and tools. Everything I learn pushes my creative journey in new directions. I share what I've learned with other artists through my blog All Things Encaustic.

Visit My Website
View All Posts

1 thought on “Famous Encaustic Paintings and Sculptures in New York City Galleries”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top