Art Term

Metal

Metal is a solid, hard, opaque material that has been used by sculptors since ancient times

David Annesley, ‘Swing Low’ 1964
David Annesley
Swing Low 1964
Tate
© David Annesley

There are two families of metals: ferrous and non ferrous. All ferrous metals contain iron. Non ferrous metals include aluminium, zinc and copper and its alloys, for example bronze. Metals can be hammered without breaking or cracking them in order to shape them, they can also be melted and used in moulds or made into wire and modelled – this makes them ideal media for sculptors to work with.

The use of bronze for making cast sculpture is very ancient, and bronze is perhaps the metal most traditionally thought of as a sculptural medium. From the early twentieth century, however, artists such as Pablo Picasso and the Russian constructivists began to explore the use of other metals, and Julio González introduced welded metal sculpture. The use of a range of metals and of industrial making techniques became widespread in minimal art and new generation sculpture for example.

Related terms and concepts

Art Term

Minimalism

Minimalism is an extreme form of abstract art developed in the USA in the 1960s and typified by artworks composed ...

Art Term

New generation sculpture

New generation sculpture were a group of young British sculptors working in the 1960s, who experimented with materials, forms and ...

Art Term

Constructivism

Constructivism was a particularly austere branch of abstract art founded by Vladimir Tatlin and Alexander Rodchenko in Russia around 1915

Selected artworks in the collection