It’s a common feeling that sculpture is for large houses or stately homes, and that it can be a little, well, fusty and old fashioned.
The good news is that this isn’t necessarily the case. Sculpture can be a dynamic and engaging art form for any size of house. From a stately home to a studio, sculpture can work in any environment.
Let's take a look at how this medium has changed over the years to become an artform that can bring any interior to life.
History of sculpture
As one of the oldest forms of art, sculpture dates back to ancient Greece and Egypt, perhaps even before. We’ve all sat through history lessons and seen sculptures of figures standing in a set pose, or military statues where the hero strides and looks to the future, but this medium has evolved a lot since then.
Throughout history, sculpture was a way for the rich, famous or heroic to preserve their name in history. Whether that was the sitter in a formal pose or represented as a Greek or Roman myth. This is why a lot of this art form represents people in a lifelike pose, part of a story or staring out as a formal head and shoulders bust.
Auguste Rodin is seen as a key figure to break sculpture out of referencing history and the Greek myths to become art in its own right. He believed in creating figures in more natural poses that were more about the human form and emotion than history.
Just look at his masterpiece, The Kiss. There’s nothing formal about that sculpture.
It was these artists who helped allow sculpture to be whatever the artist wanted it to be. It was no longer about a historical reference or pose, but about expression and emotion.
What style to choose
There are no hard and fast rules with sculpture. This is because the artist is working 3-dimensionally, which gives them so much more scope for their imagination to run free. Of course, we still see ‘traditional’ figurative forms, but now we also have abstract and conceptual sculpture.
Abstract sculpture is mainly made up of shapes and distorted forms and tends to work well with modern or minimalist interiors. Like painters, sculptors also look to capture movement or flow in their works, and abstraction is a great way to capture this in 3-D form.
Conceptual sculpture is that notorious form of art that usually leads to viewers in art galleries saying; ‘I could do that’. Yep, it’s that pile of bricks or chair in the middle of a room that leaves people baffled as to why it is art.
This form of sculpture is challenging, often deliberately provocative, and can be quite hard to read. However, it is this challenge that makes conceptual art so much more rewarding. It makes you think and leaves you with more questions than answers. Having a piece in your home will never be boring, that’s for sure!
With sculpture, you don’t have to stick to one particular style. Having a mixture in your home can work well. Like a gallery wall, sometimes opposing forms can really stand out when placed together.
Sculpture for the garden
Sculpture can be created using a wide range of materials. The traditional materials were bronze and marble, but now it can be anything from iron to stone, to papier mache and include found and upcycled materials.
One of the key reasons for using bronze or marble is that it is extremely hard wearing and durable. It’s a good material for a piece that is going to stand outside in the elements.
When choosing sculpture for the garden, it’s really important to look at what material it has been made with as it may not be ideal for outdoor purposes. Most garden sculpture is made with durable, or recycled metals to ensure it can withstand the wind and weather. Wood is also a good material as it is natural and designed to be outside.
For example, you may think plastic is perfect, but if left in direct sunlight, the colour can fade and it can become brittle over time. Either way, if you’re unsure, then it’s always worth asking the artist, who can then advise on the best location for the piece.
What size for your space?
Most sculpture is now made for the desk, table top, mantelpiece or wall. It’s only really garden sculpture that tends to be larger in size and scale. The days of sculpture only belonging to the super-rich or aristocracy are long gone. Instead, this is an affordable artform that can sit well within any domestic setting.
When we think of art we do tend to think more about paintings, but sculpture is also a form that is worth considering. If you live in rented accommodation or a listed building or any other environment where there may be issues with putting things on walls, you can still liven up your place with 3-dimensional art.
No matter what your space, sculpture can transform it. Make it a focal point to create a vibrant room designed to impress friends and family alike.