Sculpture

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History Of Sculpture

Sculpture may very well be the earliest art form, as carved/etched rocks in the shape of humans and animals predate the oldest known cave paintings. For example, an ivory carving of a woman known as the “Venus of Hohle Fels” may be as old as 40,000 years, and examples of what may be ‘pre-sculptural’ forms date as far back as 230,000 years. Ancient civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Minoa also yielded fine examples of figurative sculpture, but the art form flourished in the hands of the ancient Greek sculptors, whose lifelike works would eventually influence the masters of the High Renaissance. Prior to this, however, sacred figures dominated Gothic sculpture in 12th century Europe in the form of reliefs and statues for grand-scale cathedrals. In the 14th and 15th Century, interest in Greek classicism took hold and religious-themed sculptures shared the stage with sculptural portraits, tombs, animal statues, and works based on Greek mythology. High drama, prodigious techniques, and dynamism characterized sculpture from the Baroque and Rococo periods. The 19th century Romantics sought to break free from classical order in favor of intense emotion, and the Impressionists replaced the formulaic themes of neoclassicism with naturalism and individualism. Such reactionary movements hastened the age of 20th century Modernism, and after generations of representing forms more or less true to nature, an explosion of experimentation had begun with such movements as Cubism, Surrealism, Abstraction, Abstract Expressionism, and Minimalism, among many others.

Sculpture Techniques

A sculptor can achieve his desired results by either subtractive techniques (i.e. chipping or carving material away, as with stone or wood) or additive techniques (i.e. adding material, as with clay or wax). Once the desired form is achieved, depending on the medium, the sculpture is either complete or extra processes are required. If the sculptor is creating a cast metal work (such as a bronze), a cast must be made of the sculpted model (usually made of wax) and molten metal poured inside the mold. Such methods include lost-wax casting, investment casting, and sand casting. Artists may create free-standing sculptures “in-the-round,” or reliefs—a sculpture that projects (in varying degrees) from a two-dimensional surface. Some works, such as assemblages, are created from found objects which are fused together by the artist to create the desired composition. Other works known as kinetic sculptures involve an element of physical motion, either naturally or artificially generated.

Artists Known For Sculpture

One of the most famous sculptures of the High Renaissance is Michelangelo’s marble statue of “David” (1501-04), showing the muscular hero standing in repose after having slain Goliath. Other famous Michelangelo sculptures include “Peita” (1498-99) and Moses (1513-15). King David was a favorite subject of other Italian masters, as the religious figure was also famously represented by Donatello and Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini. The latter’s “David” (1623-24) is an energetic work, capturing the hero mid-action and encapsulating the dynamic spirit of the Baroque Era. Antonio Canova emerged as a major figure of neo-classicism for his works “Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss” (1787-93) and “Perseus with the Head of Medusa” (1804-06). Auguste Rodin is credited with ushering in modern movements in sculpture with his highly emotive and naturalistic works “The Thinker” (1879-88), “The Kiss” (1889), and his controversial “Monument to Balzac” (1891-1898). The 20th century became a wellspring of experimentation. Picasso created cubist sculpture as well as “constructions” involving the assemblage of different materials and objects. Constantin Brancusi’s works like “Bird in Space” (1928) and Henry Moore sculptures such as “Reclining Figure” (1951) and “Stringed Figure” (1937) were forerunners of abstract, minimalist, surreal, and geometric sculpture, while Dada works such as Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain” (1917) and Andy Warhol’s pop-art piece “Brillo Boxes”(1970) challenged notions of what objects were acceptable as art. Some renowned contemporary sculptors include Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Louise Bourgeois, Anish Kapoor, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Antony Gormley, and Takashi Murakami.