Detail from the frieze of the United States Supreme Court
Sculpture is the creation of a three- dimensional art form, usually of a solid material, in that the sculp- ture takes up space. Most people
think of sculpture as a statue of a person—and indeed, that is sculpture, but
there are many more types of sculpture!
An understanding of some basics about
sculpture can help a student appreciate
his next trip to an art museum or even
the town square, as sculptures are common as forms of public art.
There are two basic
types of sculpture:
freestanding and relief.
There are two basic types of sculpture: freestanding and relief. A relief
sculpture is a form that projects from a
background to which the form remains
attached. The most common examples
of relief sculpture are coins. Each side of
a coin has a low-relief sculpture of the
head of a Founding Father or some other U.S. iconography. “Low relief” means
that the carving is very shallow so the
image does not protrude too far from
High-relief sculpture, called a frieze,
can often be seen on the tops of buildings or around an ancient sarcophagus.
When the United States Supreme Court
building in Washington, D.C. was being
planned, the architect hired a sculptor
(an artist who specializes in sculpture)
to design the many friezes for the building, and there is a lot of meaning in
these high-relief sculptures! Symbols of
justice and images of many great leaders
in the history of law adorn these reliefs.
So, the next time you go into an important building, look around for some
relief sculpture that can give you some
insight into the building or the architect
who designed it.
George Washington sculpture by
Jean Antoine Houdon
Freestanding sculpture is a piece that
can be viewed from all around, 360 de-
grees, and is not attached to a building or
other flat surface. There are many types
of freestanding sculpture: statues, busts,
mobiles, stabiles, assemblage pieces—and
lots of materials can be used to create a
sculpture. The more traditional materials
are marble, wood, stone, clay, and bronze.
More modern materials used in sculpture
can be practically anything. There is even a
sculpture made entirely of human hair!