You are on page 1of 4

Sculpture is the branch of the visual arts The materials used in sculpture are diverse,

that operates in three dimensions. It is one of changing throughout history. The classic
the plastic arts. Durable sculptural processes materials, with outstanding durability, are
originally used carving (the removal of metal, especially bronze, stone and pottery,
material) and modeling (the addition of with wood, bone and antler less durable but
material, as clay), in stone, metal, ceramics, cheaper options. Precious materials such as
wood and other materials but, since gold, silver, jade, and ivory are often used
Modernism, there has been an almost for small luxury works, and sometimes in
complete freedom of materials and process. larger ones, as in chryselephantine statues.
A wide variety of materials may be worked More common and less expensive materials
by removal such as carving, assembled by were used for sculpture for wider
welding or modeling, or molded, or cast. consumption, including hardwoods (such as
oak, box/boxwood, and lime/linden);
Sculpture in stone survives far better than terracotta and other ceramics, wax (a very
works of art in perishable materials, and common material for models for casting, and
often represents the majority of the surviving receiving the impressions of cylinder seals
works (other than pottery) from ancient and engraved gems), and cast metals such
cultures, though conversely traditions of as pewter and zinc (spelter). But a vast
sculpture in wood may have vanished almost number of other materials have been used
entirely. However, most ancient sculpture as part of sculptures, in ethnographic and
was brightly painted, and this has been lost. ancient works as much as modern ones.

Sculptures are often painted, but commonly

Sculpture has been central in religious lose their paint to time, or restorers. Many
devotion in many cultures, and until recent different painting techniques have been used
centuries large sculptures, too expensive for in making sculpture, including tempera, oil
private individuals to create, were usually an painting, gilding, house paint, aerosol,
enamel and sandblasting.[2][6]
expression of religion or politics. Those
cultures whose sculptures have survived in Many sculptors seek new ways and materials
quantities include the cultures of the ancient to make art. One of Pablo Picasso's most
Mediterranean, India and China, as well as famous sculptures included bicycle parts.
many in South America and Africa. Alexander Calder and other modernists made
spectacular use of painted steel. Since the
The Western tradition of sculpture began in 1960s, acrylics and other plastics have been
used as well. Andy Goldsworthy makes his
ancient Greece, and Greece is widely seen as
unusually ephemeral sculptures from almost
producing great masterpieces in the classical entirely natural materials in natural settings.
period. During the Middle Ages, Gothic Some sculpture, such as ice sculpture, sand
sculpture represented the agonies and sculpture, and gas sculpture, is deliberately
passions of the Christian faith. The revival of short-lived. Recent sculptors have used
classical models in the Renaissance stained glass, tools, machine parts, hardware
produced famous sculptures such as and consumer packaging to fashion their
works. Sculptors sometimes use found
Michelangelo's David. Modernist sculpture
objects, and Chinese scholars' rocks have
moved away from traditional processes and been appreciated for many centuries.
the emphasis on the depiction of the human
body, with the making of constructed Stone
sculpture, and the presentation of found
objects as finished art works. Stone sculpture is an ancient activity where
pieces of rough natural stone are shaped by
the controlled removal of stone. Owing to the
permanence of the material, evidence can be precious metal, and very important in
found that even the earliest societies jewellery; with silver it is soft enough to be
indulged in some form of stone work, though worked with hammers and other tools as well
not all areas of the world have such as cast; repouss and chasing are among the
abundance of good stone for carving as techniques used in gold and silversmithing.
Egypt, Greece, India and most of Europe.
Petroglyphs (also called rock engravings) are Casting is a group of manufacturing
perhaps the earliest form: images created by processes by which a liquid material (bronze,
removing part of a rock surface which copper, glass, aluminum, iron) is (usually)
remains in situ, by incising, pecking, carving, poured into a mold, which contains a hollow
and abrading. Monumental sculpture covers cavity of the desired shape, and then allowed
large works, and architectural sculpture, to solidify. The solid casting is then ejected or
which is attached to buildings. Hardstone broken out to complete the process,[8]
carving is the carving for artistic purposes of although a final stage of "cold work" may
semi-precious stones such as jade, agate, follow on the finished cast. Casting may be
onyx, rock crystal, sard or carnelian, and a used to form hot liquid metals or various
general term for an object made in this way. materials that cold set after mixing of
Alabaster or mineral gypsum is a soft mineral components (such as epoxies, concrete,
that is easy to carve for smaller works and plaster and clay). Casting is most often used
still relatively durable. Engraved gems are for making complex shapes that would be
small carved gems, including cameos, otherwise difficult or uneconomical to make
originally used as seal rings. by other methods. The oldest surviving
casting is a copper Mesopotamian frog from
The copying of an original statue in stone, 3200 BC.[9] Specific techniques include lost-
which was very important for ancient Greek wax casting, plaster mold casting and sand
statues, which are nearly all known from casting.
copies, was traditionally achieved by
"pointing", along with more freehand
methods. Pointing involved setting up a grid
of string squares on a wooden frame Glass
surrounding the original, and then measuring
the position on the grid and the distance
between grid and statue of a series of Dale Chihuly, 2006, (Blown glass)
individual points, and then using this
information to carve into the block from Glass may be used for sculpture through a
which the copy is made wide range of working techniques, though
the use of it for large works is a recent
Metal development. It can be carved, with
considerable difficulty; the Roman Lycurgus
Ludwig Gies, cast iron plaquette, 8 x 9.8 cm, Cup is all but unique.[10] Hot casting can be
"Refugees 19141915" done by ladling molten glass into molds that
have been created by pressing shapes into
Bronze and related copper alloys are the sand, carved graphite or detailed
oldest and still the most popular metals for plaster/silica molds. Kiln casting glass
cast metal sculptures; a cast bronze involves heating chunks of glass in a kiln
sculpture is often called simply a "bronze". until they are liquid and flow into a waiting
Common bronze alloys have the unusual and mold below it in the kiln. Glass can also be
desirable property of expanding slightly just blown and/or hot sculpted with hand tools
before they set, thus filling the finest details either as a solid mass or as part of a blown
of a mold. Their strength and lack of object.
brittleness (ductility) is an advantage when
figures in action are to be created, especially Pottery
when compared to various ceramic or stone
materials (see marble sculpture for several Pottery is one of the oldest materials for
examples). Gold is the softest and most sculpture, as well as clay being the medium
in which many sculptures cast in metal are the other main materials, being vulnerable to
originally modelled for casting. Sculptors decay, insect damage, and fire. It therefore
often build small preliminary works called forms an important hidden element in the art
maquettes of ephemeral materials such as history of many cultures.[3] Outdoor wood
plaster of Paris, wax, unfired clay, or sculpture does not last long in most parts of
plasticine.[11] Many cultures have produced the world, so that we have little idea how the
pottery which combines a function as a totem pole tradition developed. Many of the
vessel with a sculptural form, and small most important sculptures of China and
figurines have often been as popular as they Japan in particular are in wood, and the great
are in modern Western culture. Stamps and majority of African sculpture and that of
moulds were used by most ancient Oceania and other regions.
civilizations, from ancient Rome and
Mesopotamia to China.[12] Wood is light, so suitable for masks and other
sculpture intended to be carried, and can
Wood carving take very fine detail. It is also much easier to
work than stone. It has been very often
A carved wooden Bodhisattva from the Song painted after carving, but the paint wears
dynasty 9601279, Shanghai Museum less well than the wood, and is often missing
in surviving pieces. Painted wood is often
Detail of Jesus just dead, Spanish, wood and technically described as "wood and
polychrome, 1793. polychrome". Typically a layer of gesso or
plaster is applied to the wood, and then the
Wood carving has been extremely widely paint is applied to that.
practiced, but survives much less well than
Other Sculptural Materials

Other traditional materials employed to create

sculptures include ivory and whalebone, as
well as precious metals.

The earliest known examples of ivory/bone

sculpture include: the celebrated mammoth
ivory carvings of prehistoric animals, birds, and
therianthropic figures (c.33,000-30,000 BCE)
discovered in the Vogelherd caves of the
Swabian Jura, Germany; the Venus of Kostenky
(c.22,000 BCE), a mammoth ivory carving of a
female figure, found in Russia; and the Lion
Man of Hohlenstein-Stadel (c.38,000 BCE) a
mammoth ivory statuette found in the Swabian

Famous works made from precious stones

include the Mesopotamian sculpture known as
the Ram in a Thicket (c.2500 BCE), a small
statue made from gold-leaf, copper, lapis
lazuli, and red limestone, dicovered in the
Great Death Pit, Ur; and the Maikop Gold Bull
(c.2,500 BCE), a gold sculpture (made using
the lost-wax casting method) from the Maikop
Culpture of the North Caucasus, Russia.

Modern Materials Used in 20th Century


Materials employed by 20th century sculptors

include secondary materials such as concrete,
as well as an endless list of modern materials
such as stainless steel, fibreglass, aluminium,
foam rubber, papier mache, bicycle-parts,
plastics, stained glass, "found" items, and so
on. For more about certain types of
postmodernist plastic art, see: Ice sculpture
and also Sand art.

Notable 20th century sculptures made from

non-traditional materials include:

Merzbau (Merz building) (1923) made from

paper scraps, multi-media.
By Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948)

Lobster Telephone (1936) made from plastic,

painted plaster, mixed media.
Mae West Lips Sofa (1937) made from wood
& satin.
Both by the Surrealist artist Salvador Dali

Object ("Furry Breakfast") (1936) Fur-covered

cup, saucer & spoon.
By the Dadaist/Surrealist sculptor Meret
Oppenheim (1913-85)