History of Body Sculpture
The global tradition of creating human body sculptures has evolved since its early prehistoric days, when civilizations crafted small cult figures like the iconic Venus of Willendorf. As techniques and technology improved, societies began to carve images in stone relief and create large-scale sculptural representations of the body in various mediums including stone, bronze, ceramic, and wood. The Greeks are especially known for experimenting with canons of proportion, dynamic poses, and nudity to create more realistic full body sculptures. Many sculptures of the human form, whether it be the Olmec’s colossal stone heads, icons of Buddha, or portraits busts, depicted significant religious and political figures in a given civilization. Western artists exhibited a renewed interest in creating freestanding sculptures of the human body and returned to a Classical realistic style. As with other artistic mediums, the birth of modernism toward the end of the 19th century led to a shift toward more abstract and stylized approaches to the age-old subject. Contemporary artists continue to depict the human form using a variety of styles and new materials.
Body Sculpture Techniques
Artists make human body sculptures from several traditional sculptural materials, including clay, stone, metal, ceramic, and wood. Sculptors can carve stone, cast metal and alloy works, and model softer materials like clay. The Classical approach to the human form is characterized by exact proportions, crisp lines, and realistic details in everything from the figure’s hair to its clothing. Modernists experimented with creating more abstract body sculptures following the style of various movements. Artists associated with the Impressionist movement, for example, crafted the human body using a mottled surface technique to parallel the movement’s rapid brushstrokes. Cubist works depicted the body from various viewpoints at once, playing with alternating areas of dimension and flatness. More contemporary sculptures of the body exhibit the artist’s experimentation with new mediums, including different kinds of plastic, plaster, textiles, and found, readymade materials and objects.
Artists Known For Body Sculpture
Famous Classical sculptures of the human body include “Laocoon and his Sons” (200BC), “Winged Victory of Samothrace” (190BC), “Venus de Milo” (100BC), and Myron’s dynamic “Diskobolos” (460BC). Roman bronze statues of political leaders like Marcus Aurelius are also iconic examples of the human form in sculpture. Donatello is recognized for his “David” (1430-1440), which was the first life-sized nude sculpture since Classical antiquity. Michelangelo also crafted a “David” sculpture and is famous for his “Pieta” sculpture of the Virgin Mary and Christ for St. Peter’s in Rome. Auguste Rodin is famous for his Impressionist marble and bronze sculptures of nude figures like “The Thinker” (1902) and “The Kiss” (1882). Duane Hanson used unconventional materials like fiberglass and vinyl to make full-sized, hyper realistic sculptures of ordinary people like tourists and construction workers. Other artists known for their body sculptures include Praxiteles, Aristide Maillol, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini, Edgar Degas, Constantin Brancusi, Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Umberto Boccioni, and George Segal.