Three-dimensional art made by one of four basic processes: carving, modelling, casting, constructing

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  • Henry Moore OM, CH, 'Recumbent Figure' 1938

    Henry Moore OM, CH
    Recumbent Figure 1938
    Green Hornton stone
    object: 889 x 1327 x 737 mm, 520 kg
    Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1939 The Henry Moore Foundation. This image must not be reproduced or altered without prior consent from the Henry Moore Foundation.

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  • Julio González, 'Maternity' 1934

    Julio Gonzlez
    Maternity 1934
    object: 1305 x 406 x 235 mm
    Purchased 1970 ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2002

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  • Sir Jacob Epstein, 'Doves' 1914-15

    Sir Jacob Epstein
    Doves 1914-15
    Greek marble
    object: 648 x 787 x 343 mm
    Purchased 1973 The estate of Sir Jacob Epstein

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Carved sculpture is usually made from stone, wood, ivory or bone; modelling is usually in clay; the process of casting involves modelling (in clay or wax), making a mould from the model, and then casting it in bronze; constructed sculpture in various forms became a major stream in modern art.

The earliest known human artefacts recognisable as what we would call sculpture date from the period known as the Upper Paleolithic, which is roughly from 40,000 to 10,000 years ago. These objects are small female figures with bulbous breasts and buttocks carved from stone or ivory, and are assumed to be fertility figures. The most famous of them is known as the Venus of Willendorf (the place in Austria where it was found in 1908). Sculpture flourished in ancient Egypt from about 5,000 years ago and in ancient Greece from some 2,000 years later. In Greece it reached what is considered to be a peak of perfection in the period from about 500–400 BC. At that time, as well as making carved sculpture, the Greeks brought the technique of casting sculpture in bronze to a high degree of sophistication. Following the fall of the Roman Empire the technique of bronze casting was almost lost but, together with carved sculpture, underwent a major revival during the Renaissance.

In the twentieth century a new way of making sculpture emerged with the cubist constructions of Picasso. These were still life subjects made from scrap (found) materials glued together. Constructed sculpture in various forms became a major stream in modern art (constructivism; assemblage; environment; installation; minimal art; new generation sculpture.) Techniques used included welding metal, introduced by Julio González, who also taught it to Picasso. (See for example David Smith; Reg Butler).