How much do you know about art? While many people are familiar with paintings and other art forms, statues are often a mystery beyond the beautiful marble ones that we see from ancient Greece and Rome.
Many different types of sculptures have existed throughout history and all of them are impressive, even if they don’t look that way on the surface. Many contemporary sculpture artists have repeated the styles of historical sculptors meaning that these sculpture styles have withstood the test of time.
If you’re curious about all of the kinds of sculptures that artists create, read on for some of the more common ones.
Sculptures in Relief
“Relief” is one of the two primary forms that a sculpture can take. This means that rather than being a sculpture that stands alone, it’s imprinted onto something else, like a wall or slab.
For example, this Chinese Buddhist sculpture was created in relief.
There are different kinds of sculptures in relief. Most of the time they’re carved into the flat surface, but the variances come from the depth. Sometimes the figures are more “round,” meaning that it looks as if they’re almost standing on their own.
High relief sculptures have a lot of depth. Their figures are distinct from the background and you can touch around them as if they were standalone art pieces, though their backs are still flush to the background.
Bas relief, or low relief, means that there is very little distinction between the figures and the background, but there are still textural levels popping out, even if they’re hard to see. With these, all of the artistic effects come from the front view.
Sunken relief sculptures are carvings. The depth doesn’t result from figures coming out of the surface, but rather being carved within it.
Full-round sculptures are the other primary category of sculptures. These sculptures stand alone.
There are too many varieties of full-round sculptures to mention in one section, but these are what you’ll think of when you think of “sculptures.” When you consider the figures of Greek gods in museums, the modern metal sculptures in every major city, and even the small sculptures that you can buy to adorn your home, they’re usually full-round sculptures.
When someone makes a cast sculpture, it means that they’re putting their material into a mold to create the final product.
First, the artist makes the mold. There are two main ways to do this, and an artist may use multiple molds for one sculpture if they plan on assembling it later.
The artist may start with a version of their ideal sculpture that’s made from cheaper or more malleable materials than what they went for their final product. They then place the object into some silicone (though some artists choose to use steel) and wait for it to take shape.
Once the mold is complete, the artist can use whatever materials they choose to fill it and create their art. These molds can be used over and over.
While it looks like many old sculptures are molded by hand, they’re carved from large pieces of stone. The most popular choice for these statures was marble.
To make stone resemble human flesh, an artist needs to be an expert. It takes a lot of patience. They use a variety of tools that can range from being large enough to take chunks of excess stone away, to small enough to create tiny details, like folds in fabric or skin.
Sometimes people paint these sculptures, but the classic “all-white” look is more popular (even though ancient Greek statues were painted before the color wore away).
If you’ve ever made a figure with clay, you’ve made a modeled sculpture! Artists create these sculptures from soft materials like clay, plaster, wax, or even edible things like fondant.
When someone makes a carved sculpture, it means that they’re removing excess material to create their figure. When someone is making a modeled sculpture, however, they’re adding material to a base.
Some people have an underlying structure underneath the face of the sculpture, like wire, or even foam.
Assembled structures are often eclectic and interesting to look at. They’re a far cry from the traditional molded and carved sculptures that you’ll read about in ancient art history classes.
These can be made of anything. The artist collects things (either handmade, natural, or found) to create their sculpture. Like with modeled sculptures, this is a process of adding onto a base to create a final product.
These sculptures often look modern, unique, and haphazard. They range from minimalist to maximalist, and some may call them “gaudy.”
Metal sculptures are great examples of assembled sculptures.
Kinetic sculptures are fascinating to look at and they’re getting more and more popular as time goes on.
This is a modern sculpture type that moves, giving it a magical quality. There are plenty of ways to add that movement. Some artists use things like bubbles, water, or fog to create movement. Others use the powers of wind or electricity.
While the sculptures may look uninteresting when they’re still, the added movement allows the artist to take their work to the next level.
Which Types of Sculptures Are Your Favorite?
There are so many types of sculptures that it’s impossible to name every single one, but this list is a great starting point for your art history research. Whether you’re interested in learning more about sculptures and fine art, or you’re considering becoming a sculptor yourself, there’s a lot to learn.
Sculpture as an art form has been around in some way, shape, or form, for as long as humans have walked the earth. Which types do you find the most fascinating?
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