"Good painting is the kind that looks like sculpture."
Sculpting is an art form that lets you create art in three dimensions. Although paintings have been around for centuries, nothing captures the human body in a more flattering form than sculpting.
Although there have been many sculptors around the world, it garnered an interest when a farmer dug up the remains of a statue in 1820. Of course, it turned out to be the Venus de Milo.
The French purchased the statue from the farmer, and today, it stands in The Louvre, one of the most famous art museums in the world. The world has at last amassed a considerable collection of these sculptures. Today, they have inspired a new generation of artists, and have a following among major art lovers as well. Here are some of the best-ever sculptors whose art creations have been nothing less than priceless.
1386 - 1466
Born as Donato di Niccolo di Betto Bardi, he was nicknamed by his family members as 'Donatello', and was educated at the home of Martellis, who were related to the Medici family. He had apprenticed with metal-smith and sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti. He assisted Ghiberti in creating the bronze doors of the Florence Cathedral. Donatello then spent time with his rival Filippo Brunelleschi excavating the ancient ruins of Rome, which would influence his art style dramatically. Then, by 1408, he was back in Florence, and commissioned to complete a life-size sculpture of David
(David who had killed Goliath). The statue was placed in Palazzo Vecchio (town hall) as a sign of the defiant spirit of the Florentines.
His artistic style was heavily inspired by realism. All his sculptures depict the emotions felt by the character, as depicted in the statue of Judith and Holofernes.
Among his famous works are the tombs of Antipope John XXIII and Cardinal Rainaldo Branacacci. He was commissioned to do a portrait of mercenary Erasmo di Narni. The statue depicted the mercenary in full battle armor sitting on his horse, ready to take on the enemies at a moment's notice. The statue created controversy on the fact that only kings were granted this honor, and not assassins.
Donatello died in 1466 of unknown causes. His last works were finished by his students Bartolomeo Bellano and Bertoldo di Giovanni, remaining faithful to his style.
Below is the statue of Judith and Holofernes. The statue depicted the bravery of the widow Judith, as she seduced and single-handedly slew Holofernes, the general loyal to Nebuchadnezzar, who was getting ready to attack Bethulia. She brought the severed head to Bethulia to give them hope, and they rose up to fight the Greek invasion. The moment when she beheads Holofernes is beautifully captured in Holofernes's expressions of bewilderment and Judith's decisiveness. It had an inscription that read "Kingdoms fall through luxury, cities rise through virtue. Behold the neck of pride severed by humility". It remains the only work signed by the artist.
1475 - 1564
Born in Tuscany as Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, he was the son of a farmer. Even at a young age young Michael wanted to dabble in arts, preferring to copy paintings from churches, rather than study. From 1490 to 1492, he attended the Humanist Academy to study art, which was founded by Lorenzo de' Medici. At this time, he sculpted the reliefs of Madonna of the Steps
and Battle of the Centaurs.
In the subsequent years, he completed Pieta
, a sculpture depicting the Virgin Mary grieving over the body of Christ. He also finished the statue of David, his famous artwork yet. Unlike Donatello's David, this was represented as more masculine and flawless. In 1505, he finished designing the tomb of Pope Julius II, although it was never to his satisfaction. It is located in Rome, adorned with the Prophet Moses about to rise angrily. During the same period, he painted the same ceiling of the Sistine Chapel
with pictures depicting the Creation, the Fall of Man, and the Promise of Salvation, as written in the Book of Genesis.
Later, he was commissioned to paint a fresco of the Last Judgment.
It depicts the Second Coming of Christ and his Judgment of the souls. He undertook a number of architectural projects, including the bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius, San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, the Sforza Chapel in the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, and the Porta Pia. One of his last works included the designing of St. Peter's Basilica, which was completed after his death. Upon his death, he was buried in Florence as per his wishes. Michelangelo was the only person truly deserving the title of the Renaissance Man, who excelled in more than one field, along with his fellow compatriot Leonardo da Vinci. Imitations of his work led to the movement of Mannerism.
Below is the statue of David, a biblical hero who took down Goliath. He's shown holding a slingshot over his left hand, and looking at Rome with a warning look in his eyes. The statue has since become a symbol defending the civil liberties of Florence. The statue has been reproduced and placed in Victoria and Albert Museum, with a plaster fig leaf covering its privates.
Statue of David
Gian Lorenzo Bernini
1598 - 1680
Bernini was a child prodigy to a Mannerist sculptor, Pietro Bernini. He came to the attention of Pope Paul V, and soon gained the patronage of Cardinal Scipione Borghese. Among his early works were The Goat Almathea with the Infant Jupiter and a Faun, Damned Soul
, and Blessed Soul
. He was considered talented enough to create the papal portrait, the Bust of Pope Paul V. His major works include Aeneas, Anchises, and Ascanius, The Rape of Proserpina, Ecstasy of Saint Theresa, Apollo and Daphne
, and David.
Unlike his predecessors, he sculpted statues in specific points of the story, like in The Rape of Proserpina
, the instant that Pluto grabs Persephone. He was the founder of the Baroque style.
Later, he succeeded in creating the tomb of Pope Urban VIII, and gained his biggest commission in creating the Four Rivers Fountain on Piazza Navona. His other famous works include the Scala Regia
(the grand stairway entrance to the Vatican Palace), and the Cathedra Petri
(the chair of St. Peter's). Bernini was rumored to be part of the Illuminati
, an anti-Church group that believed in science rather than the sayings of the Pope, but this was never proven. He died in 1680, and was buried in the Basilica of Saint Mary Major.
Below is one of his famous creations, Elephant and Obelisk
, standing outside the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva
. An elephant holding the obelisk was finished by his student Ercole Ferrata. An obelisk was believed to hold the divine being of Ra
, the Egyptian Sun God. The elephant's muscles seem tense, and he appears to be smiling and looking backwards. His rear seems to be pointing to the office of Father Giuseppe Paglia, one of the main antagonists of Bernini.
Elephant and Obelisk
1840 - 1917
Born to a working-class family in Paris, Auguste Rodin was a French sculptor. He was far different than his contemporaries, in that, he chose to sculpt using clay. He refused to adhere to the themes of Greek mythology, and instead chose to focus on creating sculptures based on human character and emotion. Highly influenced by Michelangelo and Bernini, he sought to create works of art that personified human thought. One of his works at the beginning was The Age of Bronze
, a life-size nude male that created controversy, because people believed he had cast it out of a living model.
He dedicated the next four decades of his life to creating the Gates of Hell, which would never be completed. Instead, busts were found in individual sculptures like The Kiss and The Thinker. Later on, the town of Calais would ask him to undertake an ambitious project depicting the heroes who were ready to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the town. He created the sculpture known as Burghers of Calais.
Instead of depicting them all as heroes, he viewed them as individuals, all harboring their fate as they were forced to leave town. They weren't all positioned in the center, but at different points of their journey showing varied expressions. Later on, he made busts of famous individuals, such as George Bernard Shaw, Austrian Composer Gustav Mahler, Argentinian President Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, and French Statesman Georges Clemenceau. He died at the age of 77.
Below is his famous work, The Thinker.
In the sculpture, his right hand supported his head and his left hand rested at his side. His feet were etched deep into the rock, as he sat contemplating his thoughts. It is frequently used as a symbol of philosophy.
1876 - 1957
Born to Romanian parents, he had an inclination towards arts at a young age when he began woodcarving. At the age of eighteen, he entered the Craiova School of Arts and Crafts, where he majored in woodworking, and graduated with honors. He admired Rodin, and interned at his workshop for only two months. He later sculpted many versions of The Kiss and Sleeping Muse, reducing them to basic geometric shapes. He become notorious for creating Princess X, an anonymous portrait that represented a phallic shape. He was considered to be the Father of Modernism.
Later, he finished the World War I monument in Targu-Jiu. Table of Silence, The Gate of the Kiss
, and Endless Column
all depicted the bravery and courage of Romanian soldiers who fought in World War I. He was one of the best sculptors of the 20th century.
Below here is his greatest work, The Endless Column
. It consists of 16 rhombus-shaped shapes, with a half unit at the top. The top represents the infinite sacrifice of the Romanian soldiers. It's part of an ensemble which consists of the Table of Silence
, where the seats are shaped in the form of an hourglass, which the soldiers sat on before the onset of battle and the Gate of the Kiss.
The Endless Column
Besides these greats, there were many others who were outstanding sculptors, along with being in other professions like painting, and the like. A few noteworthy mentions are:
Leonardo da Vinci
1452 - 1519
1378 - 1455
1899 - 1988
1931 - 2004
1899 - 1991
1884 - 1920
1869 - 1954
1861 - 1944
1844 - 1911
1857 - 1920
1903 - 2003
1881 - 1973
Although each of these famous sculptor's form of work may have differed, each style was an evolution to the next. These artists and their works will only go on to inspire more and more greats in the years and decades to come.