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Development of religious sculpture as a decorative element

From the 19th Century onwards, no type of sculpture has prevailed over others because of the loss of figurative condition, but there is still a distinction between ornamental sculpture and statuary. There was a decline of religious sculptures, and sculpture as a decorative element in architecture became more important.

Changes in the meaning of sculptures

Sculptures with round shapes were the most common ones, and many of them can be purchased in sculpture auctions at Balclis. These sculptures are made so that spectators can have a 360-degree view of the figure, and they are also characterised by contrasts of light and colour, movement and expression.  However, at the beginning of the 19th Century, neoclassical artists intended to follow the ancient models, but with the arrival of Romanticism, the style changed.

In the 20th Century, form and content of most sculptures were very different from previous artistic movements. We could even say that they arose through a process of experimentation, as in the case of Cubism, Expressionism, Futurism, Constructivism, Dadaism and Surrealism. Sculptures emerged during that period were influenced by primitive art and sculpture from Oceania and Africa. In the 20th Century, other artistic movements arose, such as ephemeral and kinetic sculptures.

Evolution of techniques used in sculpture

Starting with Realism, the 19th Century sculpture is marked by a lack of defined and specific styles, unlike what happens in painting. During that period there was a breakdown with the academic and traditional sculpture. This happened through the evolution of techniques that, although they arose from sculpture, have been increasingly accurate and developed.

In order to get a sense of motion, artists can use a wide range of technical resources (an engine connected to the sculpture, the use of magnets and electromagnetic mechanisms, the natural effect of wind, changes in light, suspended objects with pendulum movements, etc.). The purpose of avant-garde sculpture is to seek new ways of expression.

Starting with Realism, the 19th Century sculpture is marked by a lack of defined and specific styles, unlike what happens in painting

Although in the 20th Century new methods were introduced, it does not mean that techniques used previously had disappeared. Sculptors kept using the same processes, even though there are always some exceptions. Sculptors used to create a previous model of the figure, which could be made of clay or plaster. Once the model was ready, they either chose or determined the technique they wanted to use.

There are different kinds of techniques; the most common ones, such as sculpting, carving or modelling, which can use wax or clay more frequently; casting, very commonly used with metals such as bronze; stamping, welding, and many more that were developed with the arrival of new artistic movements.

Materials used in sculpture

Techniques mentioned above are related to a specific type of material and also determine the appearance and texture of the work to be created.

In the 19th Century, the most widely used materials were clay, because it is easy to sculpt, and stone, such as marble or alabaster, used to make large sculptures, by artists as Auguste Rodin. In the 20th Century, the materials used were stucco and metal, as well as sheets of copper, bronze, gold and silver; and finally wood, ivory and concrete. Sculptures from the 19th and 20th Centuries are very popular among collectors and they have a great value in the art market, due to their technical innovations and the quality of materials. On online art auctions you can find everything from 19th Century French school’s terracotta sculptures to Chinese porcelain sculptures.

In Spain, 19th and 20th Century sculpture had a strong impact and that’s when major artists such as Pablo Picasso, Miquel Blay, Eusebi Arnau and Pablo Gargallo emerged. But not only in the Iberian Peninsula were changes; artists from all over the world, such as Marcel Duchamp, Umberto Boccioni and Jacques Lipchitz, exhibited their innovative works in stone or concrete, which shapes recalling motion fascinated everyone.

Creation of new artistic movements

The arrival of the first avant-garde movements in the 19th Century is considered to be the emergence of artistic movements that shook up the concept of sculpture, aiming to transform it. Cubists and futurists were the first ones to experiment, moving sculpture away from imitation of reality and valuing volumes, games of light and movement. These movements not only concerned sculpture, but also architecture, with the emergence of Catalan Art Nouveau (Modernism) in Catalonia, and also painting. The Neoplasticism, which appeared in the early 20th Century, sought a renewal of aesthetics by means of harmonious lines and proportions.

At the late 20th Century, other trends such as Minimalism, Hyperrealism, Conceptual Art and Performance, among others, arose and were relevant to the development of sculpture.