Metal Sculpture

History of Metal Sculpture

Metal sculptures have been a staple art form in civilizations all over the world since ancient times. Ancient Egyptians used gold to create masks for the royal deceased, while the Byzantines and East Asian cultures used gold to create small religious works. Bronze sculptures also have a rich history. China and India are known for larger scale bronze religious statues, but the Greeks and Romans expanded the use of this medium to create life-sized figurative sculptures. During the Renaissance, Western Europe experienced a renewed interest in bronze sculpture and casting techniques. The rise of modernism and industry in the late 1800s led to facilitated methods of production, allowing artists to produce more copies of their metal sculptures and experiment with different styles, including Impressionism and Cubism. Today, sculptors work with a variety of metals, ranging from bronze and steel to iron and copper alloys. The malleability of each metal determines which styles and forms with which these artists experiment.

Metal Sculpture Techniques

Sculptors who work with bronze usually use the lost-wax technique. This method requires the artist to create a model of their intended work out of a softer material such as clay. The artist molds wax on this model, adds another layer of clay, and heats the sculpture to melt the wax. The resulting cast is filled with molten bronze, cooled, and then chipped away until only the bronze work remains. Similar metalworking casting processes include sand casting and plaster mold casting, in which the models are made of sand and plaster, respectively. Artists who create larger pieces, such as outdoor metal sculptures, cast the work in separate pieces and weld each part together. Finishes can be applied to metal sculptures after they are polished to control textures and colors.

Artists Known For Metal Sculpture

Richard Serra is known for his minimalist sheet and scrap metal sculptures like “Tiled Arc” (1981) and “Torqued Ellipse IV” (1998). Pablo Picasso also experimented with wire and malleable sheet metal to create metal wall art sculptures like “Guitar” (1914). David Smith is known for his abstract geometric works like “Cubi XI” 1963, while Alexander Calder created mobile sculptures that hung on ceilings or drifted in the wind. Calder’s signature abstract style also translated well into large outdoor metal sculptures, like “La grande vitesse” (1969). Auguste Rodin is recognized for his mottled bronze sculptures, most notably “The Thinker” (1902) and “The Three Shades” (1886). Constantin Brancusi, also a bronze sculptor, created highly polished works like “Bird in Space” (1928). Other bronze sculptors include Donatello, Phidias, Myron, and Polykleitos. Other artists known for creating metal sculptures include Isamu Noguchi, Louise Bourgeois, Sir Anthony Caro, Mark di Suvero, Henri Matisse, Henry Moore, Edgar Degas, Alberto Giacometti, Jacob Epstein, and Umberto Boccioni.