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
Looking for galleries who stock this artform?
Why not explore our member galleries
The Paragon Gallery, 4 Rotunda Terrace, Montpellier Street, Cheltenham, GL50 1SW
Leeds City Art Gallery, The Headrow, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 3AB
The Gallery, Hackwood Grange, Tunworth Road, Tunworth, Basingstoke, Hampshire, RG25 2LB
The Customs House Gallery, Commercial Road, Porthleven, Cornwall, TR13 9JD
The Barony Centre, 50 Main Street, West Kilbride, North Ayrshire, KA23 9AR
45 Eldon Garden Shopping Centre, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear, NE1 7RA
30 Gray Street, Broughty Ferry, Dundee, Broughty Ferry Dundee, Angus, DD5 2BJ
First Floor, Commercial Union House, 39 Pilgrim Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear, NE1 6QE