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art of producing in three dimensions representations of natural or imagined forms. It includes sculpture in the round, which can be viewed from any direction, as well as incised reliefrelief,
in sculpture, three-dimensional projection from a flat background. In alto-relievo, or high relief, the protrusion is great; basso-relievo, or bas-relief, protrudes only slightly; and mezzo-relievo is intermediate between the two.
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, in which the lines are cut into a flat surface.

See also articles on special techniques, e.g., model and modelingmodel and modeling,
in painting, the use of light and shade to simulate volume in the representation of solids. In sculpture the terms denote a technique involving the use of a pliable material such as clay or wax.
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Techniques and Materials

Sculpture embraces such varied techniques as modeling, carving, casting, and construction—techniques that materially condition the character of the work. Whereas modeling permits addition as well as subtraction of the material and is highly flexible, carving is strictly limited by the original block from which material must be subtracted. Carvers, therefore, have sometimes had recourse to construction in which separate pieces of the same or different material are mechanically joined together. Casting is a reproduction technique that duplicates the form of an original whether modeled, carved, or constructed, but it also makes possible certain effects that are impractical in the other techniques. Top-heavy works that would require external support in clay or stone can stand alone in the lighter-weight medium of hollow cast metal.

The principal sculptural techniques have undergone little change throughout the ages. Hand modeling in wax (see wax figureswax figures,
sculptures usually made of beeswax or tallow, which is susceptible to modeling, casting, and coloring. The Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans used wax to make sacred images or death masks.
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), papier-mâchépapier-mâché
, art material made of paper strips soaked in a binder of starch or flour paste; it dries into a firm, hard substance. Papier-mâché is widely used in the production of decorative objects and sculptures of great lightness, delicacy, and strength.
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, or clay remains unaltered, although the firing of the clay from simple terra-cotta to elaborately glazed ceramics has varied greatly. Carving has for centuries made use of such varied materials as stone, wood, bone, and, more recently, plastics, and carvers have long employed many types of hammers, chisels, drills, gauges, and saws. For carrying out monumental works from small studies, various mechanical means have been developed for approximating the proportions of the original study.

Bronze casting is also a technique of extreme antiquity (see bronze sculpturebronze sculpture.
Bronze is ideal for casting art works; it flows into all crevices of a mold, thus perfectly reproducing every detail of the most delicately modeled sculpture. It is malleable beneath the graver's tool and admirable for repoussé work.
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). The Greeks and Chinese mastered the cire perduecire perdue
[Fr.,=lost wax], sculptural process of metal casting that may be used for hollow and solid casting. The sculptor makes a model in plaster or clay that is then coated with wax. This model is then covered with a perforated plaster or clay mold.
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 (lost-wax) process, which was revived in the Renaissance and widely practiced until modern times. Little Greek sculpture in bronze has survived, apparently because the metal was later melted down for other purposes, but the material itself resists exposure better than stone and was preferred by the Greeks for their extensive art of public sculpture. Metal may also be cast in solid, hammered, carved, or incised forms. The mobilemobile
, a type of moving sculptural artwork developed by Alexander Calder in 1932 and named by Marcel Duchamp. Often constructed of colored metal pieces connected by wires or rods, the mobile has moving parts that are sensitive to a breeze or light touch; it can be designed to
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 is a construction that moves and is intended to be seen in motion. Mobiles utilize a wide variety of materials and techniques (see also stabilestabile
, an abstract construction that is completely stationary. The form was pioneered by Alexander Calder, and examples were termed stabiles to distinguish them from mobiles, their moving counterparts, also invented by Calder.
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). Contemporary practice emphasizes the beauty of materials and the expression of their nature in the work.


Ancient Sculpture

Sculpture has been a means of human expression since prehistoric times. The ancient cultures of Egypt and Mesopotamia produced an enormous number of sculptural masterworks, frequently monolithic, that had ritual significance beyond aesthetic considerations (see Egyptian artEgyptian art,
works of art created in the geographic area constituting the nation of Egypt. It is one of the world's oldest arts. Earliest History

The art of predynastic Egypt (c.4000–3200 B.C.
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; Assyrian artAssyrian art.
An Assyrian artistic style distinct from that of Babylonian art (see Sumerian and Babylonian art), which was the dominant contemporary art in Mesopotamia, began to emerge c.1500 B.C. and lasted until the fall of Nineveh in 612 B.C.
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; Sumerian and Babylonian artSumerian and Babylonian art,
works of art and architecture created by the Sumerian and Babylonian peoples of ancient Mesopotamia, civilizations which had an artistic tradition of remarkable antiquity, variety, and richness.
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; Hittite art and architectureHittite art and architecture,
works of art and structures created by the ancient Hittites Background

The Hittite invaders of central Anatolia (the area that is present-day W Turkey) came from the east c.2000 B.C. and by 1400 B.C. were masters of all of Asia Minor.
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; Phoenician artPhoenician art.
The Phoenician region developed as a major trade center of the ancient world; consequently Phoenician art clearly reflects the influences of Egypt, Syria, and Greece.
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). The sculptors of the ancient Americas developed superb, sophisticated techniques and styles to enhance their works, which were also symbolic in nature (see pre-Columbian art and architecturepre-Columbian art and architecture,
works of art and structures created in Central and South America before the arrival of Europeans in the Western Hemisphere. For many years the regions that are now Mexico and Guatemala and the Andean region of South America had been the cradle
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; North American Native artNorth American Native art,
diverse traditional arts of Native North Americans. In recent years Native American arts have become commodities collected and marketed by nonindigenous Americans and Europeans.
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). In Asia sculpture has been a highly developed art form since antiquity (see Chinese artChinese art,
works of art produced in the vast geographical region of China. It the oldest art in the world and has its origins in remote antiquity. (For the history of Chinese civilization, see China.
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; Japanese artJapanese art,
works of art created in the islands that make up the nation of Japan. Early Works

The earliest art of Japan, probably dating from the 3d and 2d millennia B.C.
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; Indian art and architectureIndian art and architecture,
works of art and architecture produced on the Indian subcontinent, which is now divided among India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. In the Western world, notable collections of Indian art can be seen in the British Museum, in the Victoria and Albert
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The freestanding and relief sculpture of the ancient Greeks developed from the rigidity of archaic forms. It became, during the classical and Hellenistic eras, the representation of the intellectual idealization of its principal subject, the human form. The concept was so magnificently realized by means of naturalistic handling as to become the inspiration for centuries of European art. Roman sculpture borrowed and copied wholesale from the Greek in style and techniques, but it made an important original contribution in its extensive art of portraitureportraiture,
the art of representing the physical or psychological likeness of a real or imaginary individual. The principal portrait media are painting, drawing, sculpture, and photography. From earliest times the portrait has been considered a means to immortality.
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, forsaking the Greek ideal by particularizing the individual (see Greek artGreek art,
works of art produced in the Aegean basin, a center of artistic activity from very early times (see Aegean civilization). This article covers the art of ancient Greece from its beginnings through the Hellenistic period.
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; Etruscan artEtruscan art
, the art of the inhabitants of ancient Etruria, which, by the 8th cent. B.C., incorporated the area in Italy from Salerno to the Tiber River (see Etruscan civilization). Archaeologists have been unable to trace the precise development of Etruscan art.
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; Roman artRoman art,
works of art produced in ancient Rome and its far-flung provinces. Early Influences

From the 7th to the 3d cent. B.C., Etruscan art flourished throughout central Italy, including Latium and Rome.
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Western Sculpture from the Middle Ages to the Seventeenth Century

In Europe the great religious architectural sculptures of the Romanesque and Gothic periods form integral parts of the church buildings, and often a single cathedral incorporates thousands of figural and narrative carvings. Outstanding among the Romanesque sculptural programs of the cathedrals and churches of Europe are those at Vézelay, Moissac, and Autun (France); Hildesheim (Germany); and Santiago de Compostela (Spain). Remarkable sculptures of the Gothic era are to be found at Chartres and Reims (France); Bamberg and Cologne (Germany). Most of this art is anonymous, but as early as the 13th cent. the individual sculptor gained prominence in Italy with Nicola and Giovanni PisanoPisano, Nicola
, b. c.1220, d. between 1278 and 1287, major Italian sculptor, believed to have come from Apulia. He founded a new school of sculpture in Italy. His first great work was the marble pulpit for the baptistery in Pisa, completed in 1259.
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The late medieval sculptors preceded a long line of famous Italian Renaissance sculptors from Della QuerciaQuercia, Jacopo della
, c.1374–1438, Italian sculptor. His work shows the transition from medieval to Renaissance art. He is especially noted for his imposing allegorical figures for the Gaia Fountain in Siena.
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 to Giovanni da BolognaBologna, Giovanni,
or Giambologna
, 1524–1608, Flemish sculptor, whose real name was Jean Bologne or Boulogne. Though born in Douai, France, he trained in Flanders. He is identified chiefly with the Italian Renaissance as one of its greatest sculptors.
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. The center of the art was Florence, where the great masters found abundant public, ecclesiastical, and private patronage. The city was enriched by the masterpieces of GhibertiGhiberti, Lorenzo
, c.1378–1455, Florentine sculptor. He received his early training in the workshop of Bartoluccio. In 1401 he entered the competition for a bronze portal for the baptistery in Florence. He won the contest against his closest rival, Brunelleschi.
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, DonatelloDonatello
, c.1386–1466, Italian sculptor, major innovator in Renaissance art, b. Florence. His full name was Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi. In his formative years he assisted Ghiberti in Florence with the bronze doors for the baptistery.
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, the Della RobbiaDella Robbia
, Florentine family of sculptors and ceramists famous for their enameled terra-cotta or faience. Many of the Della Robbia pieces are still in their original settings in Florence, Siena, and other Italian cities, but the finest collections are in Florence in the
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 family, the PollaiuoloPollaiuolo
, family of Florentine artists. Jacopo Pollaiuolo was a noted 15th-century goldsmith. His son and pupil Antonio Pollaiuolo, 1429?–1498, goldsmith, sculptor, painter, and engraver, became head of one of the foremost Florentine workshops, with many
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 brothers, CelliniCellini, Benvenuto
, 1500–1571, Italian sculptor, metalsmith, and author. His remarkable autobiography (written 1558–62), which reads like a picaresque novel, is one of the most important documents of the 16th cent.
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, and MichelangeloMichelangelo Buonarroti
, 1475–1564, Italian sculptor, painter, architect, and poet, b. Caprese, Tuscany. Early Life and Work

Michelangelo drew extensively as a child, and his father placed him under the tutelage of Ghirlandaio, a respected artist of the day.
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. The northern Renaissance also produced important masters who were well known individually, such as the German Peter VischerVischer, Peter
, the elder, c.1455–1529, German sculptor, foremost of the bronze founders in Germany. Beginning as the assistant of his father, Hermann Vischer, Peter set up his own establishment at Nuremberg and in time had his five sons working with him.
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 the elder, the Flemish Claus SluterSluter, Claus
, d. 1406, Flemish sculptor, probably of Dutch extraction, active in Burgundy. Under Philip the Bold of Burgundy he had charge of the sculptural works for the porch of the Chartreuse of Champmol, near Dijon; there stands his pedestal for a Calvary—the
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, and PilonPilon, Germain
, 1535–90, French sculptor. He was court sculptor under the later Valois sovereigns. He executed several sculptures on Henry II's mausoleum at Saint-Denis.
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 and GoujonGoujon, Jean
, c.1510–c.1566, French Renaissance sculptor and architect. Although his work reflects the Italian mannerist style, particularly of Cellini, he developed his own extremely elegant, elongated, and often lyrical forms.
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 in France.

In France a courtly and secular art flourished under royal patronage during the 16th and 17th cent. In Italy the essence of the high baroque was expressed in the dynamism, technical perfection, originality, and unparalleled brilliance of the works of the sculptor-architect BerniniBernini, Giovanni Lorenzo or Gianlorenzo
, 1598–1680, Italian sculptor and architect, b. Naples. He was the dominant figure of the Italian baroque.
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. The sculpture of PugetPuget, Pierre
, 1622–94, French painter and sculptor. At 17 he went on foot to Italy, where he worked for Pietro da Cortona on the ceilings of the Barberini and Pitti palaces. Much of his work is in S France and in Italy, where he worked. His famous statue of St.
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 in France was more consistently Baroque in style and theme than that of his contemporaries GirardonGirardon, François
, 1628–1715, French sculptor. Chancellor Séguier sent him to study in Paris with François Anguier and later to Rome. On his return he was commissioned with much of the decorative sculpture in the gardens of Versailles under the
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 and the CoustousCoustou
, family of French sculptors. Nicolas Coustou, 1658–1733, studied with his uncle, Antoine Coysevox, with whom he later collaborated on the decorations at Marly and at Versailles. He became rector and chancellor of the Académie royale.
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Modern Sculpture

The 18th cent. modified the dramatic and grandiose style of the baroque to produce the more intimate art of ClodionClodion
or Claude Michel
, 1738–1814, French rococo sculptor. He executed several important commissions under Louis XVI but is best remembered for his bas-reliefs and small figure groups in bronze and terra-cotta representing fauns, nymphs, and children.
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 and HoudonHoudon, Jean-Antoine
, 1741–1828, French neoclassical sculptor. He studied with Michel Ange Slodtz, Lemoyne, and Pigalle, took the Prix de Rome at the age of 20, and spent four years in Italy. Many of his later works reveal his study of classical form, e.g.
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, and it also saw the birth of neoclassicism in the work of CanovaCanova, Antonio
, 1757–1822, Italian sculptor. He was a leading exponent of the neoclassical school whose influence on the art of his time was enormous. Canova's monumental statues and bas-reliefs are executed with extreme grace, polish, and purity of contour.
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. This derivative style flourished well into the 19th cent. in the work of ThorvaldsenThorvaldsen or Thorwaldsen, Albert Bertel
, 1770–1844, Danish sculptor, b. Copenhagen. In 1797 he went to Rome, where he shared with Canova the leadership of the neoclassicists.
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 and his followers, but concurrent with the neoclassicists, and then superseding them, came a long and distinguished line of French realist sculptors from RudeRude, François
, 1784–1855, French sculptor. As a Bonapartist, he left Paris after the battle of Waterloo and spent 12 years in Brussels. Rude is best known for his monumental relief on the Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile, The Departure of the Volunteers,
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 to RodinRodin, Auguste
, 1840–1917, French sculptor, b. Paris. He began his art study at 14 in the Petite École and in the school of Antoine Barye, earning his living by working for an ornament maker. In 1863 he went to work for the architectural sculptor A. E.
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Rodin's innovations in expressive techniques helped many 20th-century sculptors to free their work from the extreme realism of the preceding period and also from the long domination of the Greek ideal. In the work of Aristide MaillolMaillol, Aristide
, 1861–1944, French sculptor, woodcut artist, and painter. At first a painter, Maillol studied at the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris, and then allied himself with the Nabis.
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, that ideal predominates. The influence of other traditions, such as those of African sculpture and Aztec sculpture (in both of which a more direct expression of materials, textures, and techniques is found), has contributed to this liberation (see African artAfrican art,
art created by the peoples south of the Sahara.

The predominant art forms are masks and figures, which were generally used in religious ceremonies. The decorative arts, especially in textiles and in the ornamentation of everyday tools, were a vital art in
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Among the gifted 20th-century sculptors who have explored different and highly original applications of the art are sculptors working internationally, including Pablo PicassoPicasso, Pablo
(Pablo Ruiz y Picasso) , 1881–1973, Spanish painter, sculptor, graphic artist, and ceramist, who worked in France. He is generally considered in his technical virtuosity, enormous versatility, and incredible originality and prolificity to have been the
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, Constantin BrancusiBrancusi, Constantin
, 1876–1957, Romanian sculptor. Brancusi is considered one of the foremost of modern artists. In 1904 he went to Paris, where he worked under Mercié. He declined Rodin's invitation to work in his studio.
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, Jacques Lipschitz, Naum GaboGabo, Naum
, 1890–1977, Russian sculptor, architect, theorist, and teacher, brother of Antoine Pevsner. Gabo lived in Munich and Norway until the end of the revolution, when he returned to Russia.
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, Antoine PevsnerPevsner, Antoine
, 1886–1962, Russian sculptor and painter. He was influenced by cubism while in Paris in 1911 and 1913. During World War I he was in Norway with his brother Naum Gabo. They returned to Moscow after the Russian Revolution.
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, Ossip ZadkineZadkine, Ossip
, 1890–1967, Russian sculptor who worked in France. Joining the cubists in 1914, Zadkine developed a powerful, original style. He exerted considerable influence upon contemporary sculptors after World War II.
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, Alberto GiacomettiGiacometti, Alberto
, 1901–66, Swiss sculptor and painter; son of the impressionist painter Giovannia Giacometti; b. Stampa. He settled in Paris in 1922, studying with Bourdelle and becoming associated first with the cubists and then the surrealists (see cubism;
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, and Ivan MĕstrovićMĕstrović, Ivan
, 1883–1962, Croatian-American sculptor, b. Vrpolje, Croatia (then in Austria-Hungary). He was a shepherd and then an apprentice to a marble cutter, and at 17 he begam attending the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts.
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. Important contributions have also been made by the sculptors Jacob EpsteinEpstein, Sir Jacob
, 1880–1959, sculptor, b. New York City. He studied with Rodin in Paris and later worked chiefly in England. In revolt against the ornate and the pretty in art, Epstein produced bold, often harsh and massive forms in stone or bronze that were the
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, Henry MooreMoore, Henry,
1898–1986, English sculptor. Moore's early sculpture was angular and rough, strongly influenced by pre-Columbian art. About 1928 he evolved a more personal style which has gained him an international reputation.
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, and Barbara HepworthHepworth, Dame Barbara,
1903–75, English sculptor. Hepworth's smooth, usually nonfigurative sculptures recall those of Jean Arp. Working in Cornwall, she consistently sought perfection of form and surface texture. She worked primarily in stone, in bronze.
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 (English); Aristide Maillol, Charles DespiauDespiau, Charles
, 1874–1946, French sculptor. He studied at the École des Arts décoratifs and the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris, and worked in Rodin's studio (1907–14).
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, and Jean ArpArp, Jean or Hans,
1887–1966, French sculptor and painter. Arp was connected with the Blaue Reiter in Munich, various avant-garde groups in Paris, including the surrealists, and the Dadaists in Zürich.
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 (French); Ernst BarlachBarlach, Ernst
, 1870–1938, German expressionist sculptor, graphic artist, and writer. After studying at the Dresden Art Academy he lived in Paris (1895–96) and in Berlin, Hamburg, and other German cities. A trip to Russia in 1906 gave new impetus to his art.
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, Wilhelm LehmbruckLehmbruck, Wilhelm
, 1881–1919, German sculptor. He studied at Düsseldorf and went to Paris in 1910. Influenced at first by Rodin, Brancusi, and Maillol, he later arrived at his own highly individual style. His large, elongated figures express a dramatic poignancy.
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, and Georg KolbeKolbe, Georg
, 1877–1947, German sculptor. Kolbe studied painting and after meeting Rodin turned to sculpture, working in Berlin from 1903 until his death. He is best known for his impressionist figure studies, many of which are in American museums.
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 (German); Julio GonzálezGonzález, Julio
, 1876–1942, Spanish sculptor. The son of a goldsmith and sculptor, González went to Paris in 1900. There he met Picasso and taught him techniques of iron welding and was in turn influenced by certain of Picasso's cubist ideas.
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 (Spanish); Giacomo Manzù and Marino MariniMarini, Marino
, 1901–66, Italian sculptor. Marini is best known for his many vigorous sculptures of horses and horsemen (e.g., Horse and Rider, 1949–50), although he has created notable portrait busts, group statues, and paintings and drawings.
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 (Italian); and Alexander CalderCalder, Alexander
, 1898–1976, American sculptor, b. Philadelphia; son of Alexander Stirling Calder and grandson of Alexander Mine Calder, prominent sculptors. Among the most innovative of modern sculptors, he trained as a mechanical engineer and studied at New York's Art
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, William ZorachZorach, William
, 1887–1966, American sculptor, b. Lithuania. His family emigrated to the United States when he was four and settled near Cleveland. After studying at the Cleveland School of Art and the National Academy of Design, New York City, Zorach spent two years in
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, David SmithSmith, David,
1906–65, American sculptor, b. Decatur, Ind. He arrived in New York City in 1926 and studied painting at the Art Students League. In the 1930s he began experimenting with sculpture and after 1935 he worked primarily in this medium.
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, Richard LippoldLippold, Richard
, 1915–2002, American sculptor, engineer, and designer, b. Milwaukee. Until 1941, Lippold worked as an industrial designer. As a sculptor, he achieved startling effects in intricately arranged, precisely engineered constructions of suspended wire and sheet
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, Eva HesseHesse, Eva
, 1936–70, American sculptor, b. Hamburg, Germany. Hesse's sculpture displays an antiformalism that developed in the late 1960s in reaction against conventional geometric constructivism.
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, and Louise NevelsonNevelson, Louise,
1900–1988, American sculptor, b. Kiev, Russia. Using odd pieces of wood, found objects, cast metal and other materials, Nevelson constructed huge walls or enclosed box arrangements of complex and rhythmic abstract shapes.
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An element of much modern sculpture is movement. In kinetic works the sculptures are so balanced as to move when touched by the viewer; others are driven by machine. Large moving and stationary works in metal are frequently manufactured and assembled by machinists in factories according to the sculptor's design specifications.


See Sir Herbert Read, A Concise History of Modern Sculpture (1964); G. Bazin, The History of World Sculpture (tr. 1968); A. M. Hammacher, The Evolution of Modern Sculpture (1969); W. Tucker, The Language of Sculpture (1985); B. Ceysson, ed., Sculpture: The Great Tradition of Sculpture from the 15th to the 18th Century (1987).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.


The art of shaping figures or designs in the round or in relief by carving wood, chiseling marble, modeling clay or casting in metal; any work of art that is created in this manner.
Illustrated Dictionary of Architecture Copyright © 2012, 2002, 1998 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a form of art based on the three-dimensional representation of an object. Sculptors most frequently represent the human figure. Less common subjects are animals and, especially, nature (landscape) and inanimate objects (still lifes). A sculptor’s principal means of expression include the arrangement of a figure in space; the unification of movement, pose, and gesture; and the representation of light and shade to convey depth. Equally important are the architectonic organization of volume, the visual relationship of mass and weight, the selection of proportions, and the character of the silhouette. Sculptural form is constructed in real space in accordance with the laws of harmony, rhythm, balance, and interaction with the surrounding architectural or natural environment. It is also based on the anatomic or structural characteristics of some model observed in nature.

Two basic types of sculpture are distinguished: sculpture in the round, which stands freely in space, and sculpture in relief, in which the representation is arranged on a flat surface that forms the background. Sculpture in the round, which usually requires viewing from all sides, includes the life-size statue, the sculptural group (two or several figures forming a single sculpture), the statuette (a figure significantly smaller than life-size), the torso (representation of the human trunk), and the bust (representation of a person from the chest up). Various types of relief are distinguished according to its purpose and position on a flat architectural surface (for example, the frieze, pedimental composition, and plafond). Reliefs are distinguished according to height and depth as being low reliefs, high reliefs, intaglios, and sunk reliefs.

According to its content and functions, sculpture is divided into monumental decorative, freestanding, and minor sculpture. Although these three types develop in close interaction, each has its own distinguishing features. Monumental decorative sculpture is designed for an architectural complex or a natural environment. It is markedly public in nature, addressing itself to a great many viewers. Such sculpture is found mostly in public areas—along streets, in squares and parks, and on the facades and in the interiors of public buildings. Monumental decorative sculpture is called upon to give expression to the architectural image and to add new nuances to the expressiveness of architectural forms. The ability to accomplish large ideological and figurative tasks with particular completeness is most characteristic of city monuments and memorial structures, in which stateliness of form and durability of material are integrated with animation and broad generalization.

Freestanding sculpture, not directly correlated with architecture, is of a more intimate nature. Its usual surroundings are exhibition and museum halls and the interiors of houses, that is. places where it can be examined closely. Because it is designed for such surroundings, it tends to be characterized by a certain style, size, and subject (portraits, genre pieces, nudes, animal figurines). An interest in the inner world of man, subtle psychologism, and the ability to tell a story are more characteristic of freestanding sculpture than they are of monumental decorative sculpture.

Minor sculpture includes a wide range of works designed primarily for the interiors of houses and is similar in many ways to decorative applied art. Coins, medals, and cameos belong to this type of sculpture.

The purpose and content of a work of sculpture determine its plastic structure, which in turn influences the choice of material. The technique for creating a sculpture depends largely on the natural properties of the material. Soft substances, such as clay, wax, and Plasticine, are modeled; the most common modeling tools are wire loops and steccas. Hard materials, for example, various kinds of stone and wood, are carved. Unwanted material is removed from a block of hard material, thereby gradually freeing a volumetric form seemingly concealed in the block. A mallet and a set of metal tools (chisel, pitching and corner chisels, among others) are used to work a block of stone, whereas the primary tools for working wood are profiled chisels and drills. Substances capable of changing from a liquid to a solid (various metals, plaster of paris, concrete, plastic) are used to cast works of sculpture in specially prepared molds. For the reproduction of sculpture in metal, electroplating may be used. In the nonmolten form, metal is worked by forging and coining, The creation of ceramic clay sculpture makes use of special clays, which are usually covered with paint or colored glaze and baked in special ovens. Painted sculpture was characteristic in the ancient, medieval, Renaissance, and baroque periods. Nineteenth- and 20th-century sculptors as a rule have been satisfied with the natural color of the material, resorting when necessary only to monochrome overpainting. The 1950’s and 1960’s, however, saw an awakening of interest in polychromatic sculpture.

The process of creating a sculptural work involves a series of stages. The first step is the modeling of sketches and studies out of Plasticine or clay. An armature (iron rods, wire, nails, wood) is then made for sculpture in the round, and a model of the desired size is shaped on a revolving stand. To make a relief a vertically secured panel (wood) is set up, and the model is arranged on it. Clay models are subsequently transformed into plaster of paris models by means of a waste or piece mold. These models are then reproduced in hard materials (stone or wood) with a pointing machine. For working or casting metal the appropriate technique is used, with subsequent coining. The final step is often patinating or painting the sculpture. Some marble and wood sculptures are made without preliminary modeling of a clay original; this direct technique requires exceptional skill.

The origin of sculpture dates back to the primitive era, at which time it was directly linked with man’s work and magic rituals. Paleolithic archaeological sites discovered in many countries—for example, Montespan in France, Willendorf in Austria, and Mal’ta and Buret’ in the Soviet Union—have yielded various animal sculptures and female figurines. The latter represented family matriarchs and included the Paleolithic Venus figures. In the Neolithic, sculpture developed further. Sculpture in the round, usually of small size, was carved out of soft rock, bone, and wood; reliefs were done on stone plates and cave walls. Sculpture frequently was used in making amulets and served as a means of decorating utensils, tools, and hunting weapons. Tripol’e ceramic clay sculpture, large stone human representations, and ornaments of bronze, gold, and silver are among the examples of Late Neolithic and Aeneolithic sculpture found in the USSR. Although primitive sculpture was noted for simplicity of form, it was often distinguished by keen observations and expressiveness.

Sculpture advanced during the collapse of the primitive communal system, with the growth of division of labor and with technological progress. The most outstanding monuments of this period were the gold reliefs of the Scythians, the terra-cotta heads of the Nok culture, and the typologically diverse carved wooden sculpture of the Oceanians.

In the art of slaveholding societies, sculpture was distinguished as a special activity with specific aims and its own practitioners. The sculpture of the ancient Eastern states served as an expression of the all-embracing idea of despotism, an immortalization of the strict social hierarchy, and a glorification of the power of gods and rulers. It represented an attraction shared by all mankind to the significant and the perfect. Such was the sculpture of ancient Egypt, which included imposing sphinxes, statues of pharaohs and their wives, portraits of nobles, colossal reliefs on the walls of tombs and temples, and small sculptural works associated with funerary rituals. Egyptian statuary and portraiture, with their canonical poses, are noted for frontality, symmetry, and balance. The sculpture of the other ancient Eastern despotates, including Sumer, Akkad, Babylonia, and Assyria, developed similarly to that of Egypt.

The sculpture of ancient Greece and, to some extent, ancient Rome is humanistic, appealing to free citizens yet, in many ways, preserving a link with mythology. In their representations of gods, heroes, athletes, and warriors, ancient Greek sculptors embodied the ideal of the harmoniously developed person and established their ethical and aesthetic beliefs. The naïvely integrated yet somewhat constrained sculpture of the archaic period was superseded by the diverse sculpture of the classical period, which was based on a thorough understanding of anatomy. Outstanding sculptors of this period included Myron, Phidias, Polyclitus, Scopas, Praxiteles, and Lysippus. The realism of Greek statues and reliefs (frequently associated with religious architecture), grave steles, and bronze and terra-cotta statuettes is clearly evident in the extremely skillful representations of the nude or draped human body. In his theoretical work Canon, Polyclitus attempted to formulate the laws governing the proportions of the human body on the basis of mathematical calculations. Greek sculpture combined fidelity to reality and expressiveness of form with idealized generalization. In the Hellenistic period the civic spirit and structural clarity of classical sculpture were replaced by dramatic fervor and striking contrasts of light and shade. Hellenistic sculptors produced works noted for a high degree of individualization. The realism of Roman sculpture was most evident in portraiture, which was marked by strikingly sharp renderings of individual and general features. The Romans developed the historical relief, which was used to decorate triumphal columns and arches, and a type of equestrian monument (for example, the statue of Marcus Aurelius, which was later erected by Michelangelo on the Capitoline in Rome).

Christianity, as the prevailing world view, in many ways determined the character of medieval European sculpture. An essential part of the architectural fabric of Romanesque cathedrals, sculpture was subordinated to the austere solemnity of the architecture. Sculpture played a particularly prominent role in the art of the Gothic period. In Gothic cathedrals reliefs and statues of the apostles, prophets, saints, fantastic creatures, and occasionally real people filled the portals, the upper galleries, the niches of towers, and the projections of cornices. The sculpture seemingly “humanized” architecture, enhancing its figurative richness. In ancient Rus’ the art of the relief attained a high level of development (for example, the Kiev slate reliefs, the decoration of churches in Vladimir-Suzdal’). In the Middle Ages sculpture developed intensively in the Middle East and the Far East; of particular significance to world art is the monumental sculpture of India, Indonesia, and Indochina, which combines powerful three-dimensionality with sensual refinement of modeling.

In the 13th to 16th centuries, Western European sculpture gradually was freed from religious and mystical content and became a more direct representation of life. Realist tendencies were revived in the sculpture of Italian proto-Renaissance masters (for example, Nicola Pisano) in the late 13th and early 14th centuries, that is, earlier than in the art of other countries. Italian 15th- and 16th-century sculpture, guided by ancient traditions, was drawn increasingly toward an expression of the ideals of Renaissance humanism. Its primary task was the embodiment of realistic human features imbued with optimism. Important sculptors of this period included Donatello, L. Ghiberti, Verrocchio, Luca della Robbia, and Jacopo della Quercia.

There were great achievements in the creation of freestanding statues (that is, statues relatively independent of architecture) and in the resolution of the problems of the monument in the urban ensemble. Also developed was the many-planed relief. The techniques of casting bronze and coining were perfected, and the use of the majolica technique was introduced in sculpture. The sculptural works of Michelangelo, which were full of titanic power and intense drama, represented one of the summits of Renaissance art. Mannerist sculptors, including B. Cellini, were primarily concerned with decorative effects. Outstanding non-Italian Renaissance sculptors included Claus Sluter (Burgundy), J. Goujon and G. Pilon (France), M. Pacher (Austria), and P. Vischer and T. Riemenschneider (Germany).

In baroque sculpture the harmony and clarity typical of the Renaissance gave way to emphatically dynamic forms frequently marked by solemn splendor. Decorative tendencies developed rapidly; sculpture was literally interlaced with the architecture of churches, palaces, fountains, and parks. Numerous formal portraits and monuments were sulptured in the baroque period. The most prominent baroque sculptors were G. L. Bernini (Italy), A. Schiuter (Germany) and P. Puget (France).

In France classicism developed closely with the baroque style; elements of both styles were interwoven in the works of F. Girardon and A. Coysevox. The principles of classicism, given new meaning in the age of the Enlightenment, played an important role in the development of Western European sculpture of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The portrait took on great significance, as did compositions based on historical, mythological, and allegorical subjects (J.-B. Pigalle, E. M. Falconet, and J. A. Houdon in France; A. Canova in Italy; B. Thorvaldsen in Denmark).

Russian sculpture completed its transition from medieval religious forms to secular forms by the close of the 18th century. Its development in the early 19th century paralleled that of the rest of European sculpture. The fervor accompanying the establishment of a new state system and, later, the civic ideals of the Enlightenment were combined with a realization of the newly discovered plastic beauty of the real world. Falconet’s monument to Peter the Great in St. Petersburg served as a majestic symbol of the new historical aspirations defined in the Petrine period. In the first half of the 18th century outstanding examples of monumental decorative park sculpture, wood carving, and formal portraiture were produced (for example, the art of B.C. Rastrelli).

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries the academic school of Russian sculpture took form and was represented by a number of notable masters; patriotism, stateliness, and classical clarity characterized the works of F. I. Shubin, M. I. Kozlovskii, F. F. Shchedrin, I. P. Marios, V. I. Demut-Malinovskii, and S. S. Pimenov. A synthesis with architecture, and a generalization of representation were typical of classicistic sculpture. In Russian sculpture of the 1830’s and 1840’s interest grew in historical authenticity (B. I. Orlovskii) and in the representation of commonplace objects and events (P. K. Klodt, N. S. Pimenov).

In the late 19th century the general democratization of art found reflection in the sculpture of Russia and Western Europe. The realistic movement—with its openly expressed social purposefulness, its acknowledgement of daily life as worthy of the artist’s attention, and its use of the themes of labor and the problems of social morality (A.-J. Dalou in France, C. Meunier in Belgium)—was in opposition to classicism, which was evolving at that time into salon art. Russian realist sculpture of the first half of the 19th century developed under the strong influence of the painting of the peredvizhniki (the “wanderers’—a progressive art movement). Profound reflections on the historic fates of the homeland, which were typical of the art of the peredvizhniki, distinguished the sculptural work of M. M. Antokol’skii as well. Modern life and the peasant theme were frequent subjects of sculpture by F. F. Kamenskii, M. A. Chizhov, V. A. Beklemishev, and E. A. Lansere.

In the second half of the 19th century the departure of many realist masters from progressive social ideas led to the decline of monumental decorative art. Another cause was the loss of sculpture’s ability to express relevant ideas; this loss was historically inevitable under conditions of developed capitalism. The decline of monumental decorative art may also be explained by the breaking of sculpture’s stylistic ties with architecture and by the spread of naturalistic tendencies. Attempts to surmount the crisis were made in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In search of stable spiritual and aesthetic values, sculpture developed in various directions—impressionism, neoclassicism, expressionism, and other tendencies. The works of a number of artists of this period (Rodin, A. Maillol, and E. A. Bourdelle in France; E. Barlach in Germany; and I. Meŝtroviĕ in Croatia) showed an understanding of life and the laws of realist plastic art and had a powerful influence on all the national schools. The art of S. M. Volnukhin, I. Ia. Gintsburg, P. P. Trubetskoi, A. S. Golubkina, S. T. Konenkov, A. T. Matveev, and A. A. Andreev represented progressive tendencies in Russian sculpture. Along with the revival of realist content, the artistic language of sculpture changed, and the significance of plastically expressive form increased.

As a result of the crisis of bourgeois culture in the 20th century, the development of sculpture has assumed a contradictory character and has frequently been linked with different modernist trends and the formalistic experiments of cubism (A. P. Arkhipenko, H. Laurens), constructivism (N. Gabo, A. Pevsner), surrealism (J. Arp, A. Giacometti), and abstract art (A. Calder). Modernist tendencies in sculpture, breaking with national realist traditions, have led to the total renunciation of the representation of reality and, frequently, to the creation of clearly antihumanist images.

Modernist trends have been consistently resisted by Soviet sculpture, which has developed along the path of socialist realism. The development of Soviet sculpture has been inseparable from the Leninist plan of monument propaganda, on the basis of which were created the first revolutionary monuments and memorial plaques, as well as many later significant works of monumental sculpture.

In the 1920’s and 1930’s the socialist world view and the principles of narodnost’ (close ties with the people) and partiinost’ (party spirit) became firmly established in Soviet sculpture: for example, in S. A. Evseev’s monument to V. I. Lenin in Leningrad, N. V. Tomskii’s monument to S. M. Kirov in Leningrad, S. D. Merkurov’s monument to K. A. Timiriazev in Moscow,

B. D. Korolev’s monument to N. E. Bauman in Moscow, and M. G. Manizer’s monument to T. G. Shevchenko in Kharkov. Such content also characterized the monumental decorative sculpture adorning large public buildings, subway stations, and all-Union and international exhibitions (for example, V. I. Mukhina’s The Worker and the Female Kolkhoznik).

Also central to the sculpture of the 1920’s and 1930’s were the theme of revolution (for example, A. T. Matveev’s October)and the image of the participant in revolutionary events, that is, the builder of socialism. Frequent subjects of freestanding sculpture were the portrait (N. A. Andreev’s Leniniana; works by A. S. Golubkina, S. D. Lebedeva, and V. N. Domogatskii) and the depiction of man as fighter (I. D. Shadr’s The Cobblestone—Weapon of the Proletariat), soldier (L. V. Shervud’s The Sentinel), and worker (G. I. Motovilov’s The Metallurgist). Animal sculpture also developed (I. S. Efimov, V. A. Vatagin), and minor forms of sculpture were revived (V. V. Kuznetsov, N. Ia. Dan’ko).

During the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45, the themes of the homeland and Soviet patriotism came to the fore and were embodied in portraits of heroes (V. I. Mukhina, S. D. Lebedeva, N. V. Tomskii) and in dramatic genre compositions (V. V. Lishev, E. F. Belashova). The tragic events and heroic achievements of the war years are reflected with particular force in the sculpture of memorial structures built since the 1940’s (E. V. Vuchetich, Iu. Mikenas, L. V. Bukovskii, G. Iokubonis).

In the past 30 years sculpture has been used to decorate or spatially organize public buildings and various architectural complexes. It is a common element in urban planning: major new monuments (M. K. Anikushin, V. Z. Borodai, L. E. Kerbel’. A. P. Kibal’nikov, N. Nikogosian, V. E. Tsigal”) have always been erected, statues have been set up along highways, and sculpture has been designed for residential areas.

Minor forms of sculpture seek relevance to modern life and strive to aesthetically individualize the modern interior. Since the 1950’s freestanding sculpture has been noted for an acute sense of the present and a search for ways to revitalize the medium’s devices. A striving to embody the character of the modern person—the builder of communism—and the use of the themes of friendship between nations and the struggle for peace are common to national schools of Soviet sculpture. These same tendencies are also inherent in the sculpture of other socialist countries, which have produced a number of outstanding masters (X. Dunikowski in Poland, F. Cremer in the German Democratic Republic, A. Augustinčiĕ in Yugoslavia, Z. Kisfauldi-Stróbl in Hungary).

In Western European sculpture the reaction against fascism and war has encouraged the activity of more progressive forces and has furthered the creation of works filled with humanism (M. Mazzacurati and G. Manzù in Italy, W. Aaltonen in Finland). The sculpture of the leading artists popularizes the progressive ideas of the present and reconstructs historical and current events with particular broadness and expression. Contrastingly, the representatives of the different modernist trends are breaking the vital link with reality—withdrawing from urgent problems and entering a world of subjective fantasy and formalistic experiments.


Golubkina. A. S. Neskol’ko slov o remesle skul’ptora. Moscow, 1923. (Reprinted in Moscow, 1963.)
Kepinov.G. I. Tekhnologiia skul’ptury. Moscow, 1936.
Arkin, D. E. Obrazy skul’ptury. Moscow, 1961.
Libman, M. Ia. Oskul’pture. Moscow, 1962.
Shmidt, I. M. Besedy o skul’ptore. Moscow, 1963.
Vseobshchaia istoriia iskusstv, vols. 1–6. Moscow, 1956–66.
Istoriia russkogo iskusstva, vols. 1–13. Moscow, 1953–69.
Moleva, N. Skul’ptura: Ocherki zarubezhnoi skul’ptury. Moscow, 1975.
Landsberger, F. Vom Wesen der Plastik: Ein kunstpädagogischer Versuch. Vienna, 1924.
Rotschild, L. Sculpture Through the Ages. New York-London. 1942.
Rich, J. C. The Materials and Methods of Sculpture. New York, 1947.
Malraux, A. Le Musée imaginaire de la sculpture mondiale, vols. 1–3. Paris, 1952–54.
Read, H. E. The Art of Sculpture. New York, 1956; 2nd ed.. New York 1961.
Percy, H. M. New Materials in Sculpture. London, 1962.
Mills, J.W. The Technique of Sculpture. London, 1965.
Cheney, S. Sculpture of the World: A History. New York, 1968.
Rogers, L. R. Sculpture. Oxford, 1969.
Bazin.G. The History of World Sculpture. London, 1970.
Tucker, W. The Language of Sculpture. London, 1974.
See also references under ART and PLASTIC ARTS.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(graphic arts)
The art of carving or shaping stone, wood, metal, or other materials into figures, or of modeling figures in wax or clay to be cast in plaster, or bronze or other metals.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. the art of making figures or designs in relief or the round by carving wood, moulding plaster, etc., or casting metals, etc.
2. the gradual formation of the landscape by erosion
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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