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What are Sculpture art and its types?

When God set out to create the universe, after having created the sky, the earth, the plants and the animals, he took some of the silt from the earth, modeled a human being in his image and likeness, and then with his breath, he gave him life. This story, told in the Bible, is found in the legends and myths of antiquity.

In ancient Greece, for example, Prometheus, one of the Titans, models a man with clay and animates him with a particle of divine fire. It is a fire that gives life.

Another legend has it that Pygmalion, a famous sculptor from Cyprus, has just finished a magnificent statue. Very proud of his near-perfect work, he gave it the name of Galatea. As his hands caress the sculpture, he feels it move under his fingers. His creation then turns into a charming young woman, with whom he falls in love and whom he marries. In this legend, it is beauty that gives life. Like the gods, the sculptor seems to bring out life from matter. It is said that Michelangelo addressed one of his sculptures and said to him: "Speak! As if he had before him a living being.

Spirit and matter

From prehistoric times, man has worked with stone, earth and wood. In stone, he carves his first weapons and tools. He thinks that a spirit is hidden in each material and that it is necessary, by a magical and sacred action, to free it from its matrix. With his hands and simple tools, he gives birth to a representation of the divinity that will protect him and last for eternity.

The first statuettes represent huge women, with heavy breasts and bellies bounded, whose role is to ensure the fertility of the earth and humans. In Antiquity, the Greeks, then the Romans, first represented their gods, then their famous men. In the middle Ages, the sculptures of cathedrals are figures of saints or kings who represent God on earth. To ensure them a place in paradise, they are carved on the stone of their tombs.

Full and empty

The sculpture is a volume that plays on solid, hollow or hollowed-out shapes. The spectator sees it differently depending on the place it occupies in the space and the way it is illuminated. There are two categories of sculptures. The round is a three-dimensional volume: length, width and height. To see it in all its faces, you have to turn around. In other cases, we speak of relief. It can be a simple engraving; it is then an engraved relief. When the figures protrude from the bottom, we speak of bas-relief. When they stand out almost completely, it is a high relief.

The art of balance

The term statue is often used to designate a sculpture. From the Latin verb stare, which means "to stand up", this word clearly indicates the essential quality of a sculpture: balance. The sculptor is obliged to take into account the weight and the hardness of the materials he chooses and the movement he wants to give to the sculpture. If the arms are too thin, they break; if the body is bent too much, it falls. In the Middle Ages, on the facades of cathedrals, the statues were in a single block; 011 says they are monolithic. The arms glued to the body; they look like columns.

The break

The XXth century everything changes. As in painting, it is no longer a question of copying nature. The artist is looking for new forms, new materials, and new exhibition spaces. He assembles, glues, breaks, he diverts all kinds of materials from their primary function. It uses factory-made products like plastic, rubber, and resin, concrete. Some artists even use food products to study their transformation over time.

The plinth disappears. The sculpture is no longer isolated on this block of stone which prohibits touching it. It is placed on the ground, and it moves, it throws balloons or water, it makes noise. Sometimes it is even necessary to go inside, as in a room or a house, secret and mysterious.

For other artists, it is no longer a question of creating with their own hands, but of having others, or in the factory, realizes their ideas. They also intervene in nature, transform it, paint it and introduce games of shadow and light.

The role of light is essential. It highlights the bumps and hollows; it accentuates the shapes and the modeling. Some materials, like plaster and earth, seem to absorb it, others, like bronze and copper, reflect it. White marble especially is preferred by artists in Italy, who consider it to be the noblest material. The light gives it subtle nuances, glides on smooth surfaces or clings to rough edges. It brings out the "grain" of marble, made "alive", which we compare to the grain of the skin.

The techniques in sculpture

The sculpture is known to be a plastic discipline that usually begins to study in high school, mainly at the art school, also called modeling. It is a subject that will teach you to use multiple materials, mainly wood and clay. Most people consider this discipline one of the most satisfying as it allows the sculptor, student, or artist to give shape to his work to make it almost real, tangible and with its own dimension. It will therefore be able to be perceivable in a totally different way in space than a painting or a drawing. In this list, we will see what the main sculpture techniques are and what they consist of. Based on the techniques used by the artist, four major categories of sculpture can be distinguished: sculpting, modeling, casting and assembling.

Sculpt it

The basic procedure for making a sculptural work has been sculpting or carving since ancient times. This is practiced by the artist with a chisel and with great physical strength often on a block of raw material, resistant as it can be marble, stone or even wood.


This type of sculptural technique, which is also very ancient, uses very soft and malleable materials such as clay, clay, wax, papier-mâché etc. The artist is able to model and shape with his hands or with the help of special tools that vary a lot according to use.

The melt 

The casting technique is mainly used to do bronze works. Very difficult and above all expensive to perform, however, it allows great results, especially for the effect it offers to those who admire them. The initial process for this type of technique always begins with representing what you want to achieve with models made in wax or clay, also called molds that are perfectly equal in size to work conceived. Then the bronze is melted and cast on these molds, with a particular method which is also called "lost wax." 


We can say that this technique is not very old; in fact, it was adopted in the twentieth century by artists. It consists precisely in the assemblage (from the French assemblage) of objects, perhaps different from each other, sometimes even taken from waste materials, or in the garbage, and then composed together, with often very surprising results.

All-round technique

Surely the best known and the most satisfying for all those who want to create three-dimensional figures. And it is precisely for this reason that this technique is called all-round. Because in any case the sculpture you are going to make will be modeled in every side.

Bas-relief technique

The crushed technique is another one of the most used; it consists of a flat surface from which the figure comes out. As if it was a drawing on the sheet but with a part in relief. It is often used to depict more static figures but not always. Think of the sculptures from the early Renaissance. Among many works, there is also one by Michelangelo, which fully shows the twisting of the bodies and the human figure. 

High relief technique

Even with this technique, there is always a plane that forms the basis of the sculpture itself. But here it is more of a mix of all-round and low relief. The figure comes out almost completely from the plane, thus giving an almost total three-dimensionality. Useful for taking portraits and depicting faces. To better understand, think of a sports prize that has a kind of pedestal on which a cup or perhaps a human figure is intent on carrying out the practiced discipline.

Technique with chisel

Mainly used for the processing of harder materials such as wood or marble. It is, therefore, a question of how the word itself already indicates to remove material rather than create it as in other techniques. So from a block of marble or a piece of wood, the desired figure is sculpted and taken out.

Technique with fusion

Used by the most experienced and with less available materials than the others mentioned above. Casting is another technique with which any type of sculpture can be created. Used with a "mold" and a material that can be melted. The mold that will be created first will be filled, and the desired shape will be obtained. Just like goldsmiths work gold. Many materials can be used. 

The forms in the sculpture

Based on the materials used in the sculpture and the tools used, we can distinguish three main types of sculpture:

Sculptures in the round that is, those that can be viewed from every possible side. They depict in all, the real volumes of objects or human figures, as we would really see them if we look at them in the space that surrounds us, with all their three-dimensional consistency.

High-relief sculptures, that is, those that emerge in a pronounced way from a surface that also acts as a background. These figures, if viewed from the front, appear complete, but in reality, they are only worked on the front, and the surface from which they protrude is their support. The example is the high relief The Death of the Virgin from around 1230, Strasbourg Cathedral.

The bas-relief sculptures, that is, those that protrude slightly from a background. Like the high relief, they have effects of volume, shadows and light, but much less pronounced. The depth is subdued compared to the high relief.

To conclude this short article, we would like to say that we don't really know if Michelangelo was right or not, on the discourse that sculpture is the queen art, compared to other art forms, but one thing we know for sure, and that is that in the face of a Pietà, or a Michelangelo's David, you feel a unique emotion, which makes me understand how the man (artist) if he wants, with his talent, his mind and his flash of geniusSculpture art, can really reach God.

Author: Vicki Lezama

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