Sculpture Through the Ages

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By jwblackwell



9 Questions

What is sculpture?

What is casting?

What is the difference between subtractive carving techniques and modelling techniques?

What is aniconism?

What is the difference between Romanesque and Gothic art?

What is the Neoclassical period known for?

What is Greco-Buddhist art?

What is the social status of sculptors throughout history?

What is the Western tradition of sculpture?


Sculpture: A Summary

  • Sculpture is a three-dimensional art form that operates in the dimensions of height, width, and depth and is one of the plastic arts.

  • Sculpture has used a wide variety of materials from stone, metal, ceramics, wood, and more since Modernism, with almost complete freedom of materials and process.

  • Durable sculptural processes originally used carving and modelling, and since then, many techniques have been developed such as casting, stamping, and moulding.

  • Sculpture has been central in religious devotion in many cultures and until recent centuries, large sculptures were usually an expression of religion or politics.

  • The Western tradition of sculpture began in ancient Greece, producing great masterpieces in the classical period.

  • Another basic distinction in sculpture is between subtractive carving techniques and modelling techniques, which shape or build up the work from the material.

  • The term "sculpture" covers many types of small works in three dimensions using the same techniques, including coins and medals and hardstone carvings.

  • Modern and contemporary art have added non-traditional forms of sculpture, including sound sculpture, light sculpture, and kinetic sculpture.

  • Sculpture is an important form of public art, and a collection of sculpture in a garden setting can be called a sculpture garden.

  • Stone, bronze, and related copper alloys are the oldest and still the most popular metals for cast metal sculptures.

  • Sculptures are often painted, but commonly lose their paint to time or restorers, with many different painting techniques being used in making sculpture.

  • Sculptors sometimes use found objects, and Chinese scholar's rocks have been appreciated for many centuries.Overview of Sculpture Materials and Techniques

  • Sculpture can be made from a variety of materials including stone, metal, wood, glass, and ceramics.

  • Casting is the process of pouring a material, such as metal or concrete, into a mold to create a 3D shape.

  • Welding is a process that fuses different pieces of metal together to create a shape or design.

  • Glass can be carved, molded, blown, or hot sculpted to create sculptures.

  • Pottery is one of the oldest materials for sculpture, and clay is often used as a medium for casting sculptures in metal.

  • Wood carving is a widely practiced art form, but wood is vulnerable to decay, insect damage, and fire.

  • The social status of sculptors throughout history has varied, with some becoming wealthy and ennobled, while others remained tradesmen.

  • Aniconism, the rejection of figurative sculpture, has been present in many religions throughout history.

  • The earliest undisputed examples of sculpture belong to the Aurignacian culture in Europe and southwest Asia, including figurines and finely-crafted stone tools.

  • Mesopotamian art produced sophisticated works like the Warka Vase and cylinder seals, and the Assyrians developed a style of very finely detailed narrative low reliefs in stone for palaces.

  • Ancient Egyptian sculpture is world-famous, with monumental works and refined small pieces utilizing the technique of sunk relief.

  • Small figures of deities or animal personifications are common in Egyptian sculpture, and larger sculptures often depict pharaohs.A Brief History of Sculpture

  • Ancient Greek sculpture developed in the Early Bronze Age Cycladic period, with marble figures usually represented in an elegantly simplified geometrical style.

  • The kouros developed in the later Archaic period from around 650 BCE, with large standing statues of naked youths found in temples and tombs.

  • During the 6th century Greek sculpture became more naturalistic, with much more active and varied figure poses in narrative scenes.

  • The "High Classical" period lasted only a few decades from about 450 to 400, but has had a momentous influence on art and retains a special prestige.

  • The Hellenistic period greatly expanded the range of subjects represented, partly as a result of greater general prosperity, and the emergence of a very wealthy class who had large houses decorated with sculpture.

  • Early Roman art was influenced by the art of Greece and that of the neighbouring Etruscans.

  • A native Italian style can be seen in the tomb monuments, which very often featured portrait busts, of prosperous middle-class Romans, and portraiture is arguably the main strength of Roman sculpture.

  • The Romans did not generally attempt to compete with free-standing Greek works of heroic exploits from history or mythology.

  • After moving through a late 2nd-century "baroque" phase, in the 3rd century, Roman art largely abandoned, or simply became unable to produce, sculpture in the classical tradition.

  • The Early Christians were opposed to monumental religious sculpture, though continuing Roman traditions in portrait busts and sarcophagus reliefs, as well as smaller objects.

  • Byzantine art never returned to monumental sculpture, or even much small sculpture in the round.

  • During the Carolingian and Ottonian periods, there were the beginnings of a production of monumental statues in courts and major churches.A Brief History of Sculpture

  • Sculptures in Anglo-Saxon churches were probably made of precious metal around a wooden frame, and no Anglo-Saxon example has survived.

  • Romanesque art was the first medieval style to be used in the whole of Western Europe, and it was characterized by vigorous style in both sculpture and painting.

  • Metalwork, including decoration in enamel, became very sophisticated in Romanesque art, and many spectacular shrines made to hold relics have survived.

  • Gothic period is essentially defined by Gothic architecture, and the facades of large churches continued to have large tympanums, but also rows of sculpted figures spreading around them.

  • Renaissance sculpture proper is often taken to begin with the famous competition for the doors of the Florence Baptistry in 1403.

  • Baroque sculpture often had multiple ideal viewing angles, and reflected a general continuation of the Renaissance move away from the relief to sculpture created in the round.

  • The Protestant Reformation brought an almost total stop to religious sculpture in much of Northern Europe, and though secular sculpture continued, the Dutch Golden Age has no significant sculptural component outside goldsmithing.

  • Rococo style was better suited to smaller works, and arguably found its ideal sculptural form in early European porcelain.

  • The Neoclassical period was one of the great ages of public sculpture, and its "classical" prototypes were more likely to be Roman copies of Hellenistic sculptures.

  • Greco-Buddhist art is the artistic manifestation of Greco-Buddhism, a cultural syncretism between the Classical Greek culture and Buddhism.

  • Throughout the Asian continent, the strong idealistic realism of Hellenistic art and the first representations of the Buddha in human form have helped define the sculptural canon for Buddhist art.

  • Strongly Hellenistic styles lingered in the East, and it appears that some works of art were created during the Greco-Buddhist period.


Test your knowledge of sculpture with our quiz! From the ancient Greeks to contemporary artists, explore the history, materials, and techniques used in this three-dimensional art form. Identify famous sculptures and their creators, and learn about the different styles and periods of sculpture throughout history. Whether you're an art enthusiast or just starting to appreciate this art form, this quiz is a fun way to discover more about sculpture and test your knowledge.

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