As with painting, the earliest example of sculpture dates back to the Upper Palaeolithic period (40,000 to 10,000 years ago). During this period stone and ivory were used to create small female figures.  It wasn’t until the Greeks used bronze casting that life size figures were represented in sculpture.

A sculpture, technically, is a three-dimensional work of art that is usually created by moulding or shaping materials – often metal, marble, wood, glass or bronze.  A two-dimensional form of sculpture exists, where the object is not fully detached from its background, which is typically described as relief carving. Common uses of relief carving are in depicting a scene in which many figures interact on a detailed landscape. Often sculptures are painted, but the paint tends to wear away over time.

The four well-know techniques to make sculpture are:

  • Carving using stone, wood, ivory or bone.
  • Modelling in clay or wax.
  • Casting is a very popular method, where liquid in the form of bronze is poured into a cast and hardened. The lost wax process is a technique used to produce casts where a clay and plaster mould take on wax which is melted through a vent and molten metal is poured in to replace it. Another simpler technique is sand casting which uses moulds made out of compacted fine sand.

Assemblage sculpture is when several different — often found — materials or objects are used within one work.

Three dimensions are real space. That gets rid of the problem of illusion and of literal space, space in and around marks and colour (…) Actual space is infinitely more powerful and specific than paint on a flat surface.

Donald Judd Artist

Owning Art: The Contemporary Art Collector’s Handbook by Louisa Buck and Judith Greer, Cultureshock Media, 2006

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