Musement brings you 15 of the world’s most famous sculptors and their most emblematic works.
From the great sculptors of the Renaissance and Baroque to contemporary sculptors who are breaking the mold, discover the artists and works that are already part of art history.
The Italian artist is one of the most renowned sculptors of the Renaissance. Thanks to the perfection of stiacciato (the technique of flattened relief), Donatello managed to give a sense of depth and relief to his works. Donatello worked with marble, bronze, wood, and other materials to create his masterpieces. Among the most famous creations of the artist are: the David (Bargello National Museum), Penitent Magdalene (Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Florence) and Gattamelatta (the equestrian monument located in Piazza del Santo in Padova).
Michelangelo not only excelled in the field of sculpting, but also in painting and architecture. Although he was born in Caprese, he spent most of his life in Florence and Rome. After convincing his father of his calling as an artist, he began to learn how to paint in Domenico Ghirlandaio’s workshop, and later, sculpture in the Medici Garden. Shortly after his arrival in Rome, when he was only 23 years old, the Renaissance genius received a commission from the Cardinal de Saint Denis. Thus, in less than a year, he created The Pietà, the masterpiece of his youth, which we can admire today in St. Peter’s Basilica. Upon his return to Florence, and commissioned by the Opera del Duomo, the artist began to sculpt the David, which would become one of the symbols of the Renaissance and the jewel of the Galleria dell’Accademia.
3. Gian Lorenzo Bernini
If Michelangelo is one of the great representatives of the Renaissance, Bernini is one of the Baroque. The sculptural works of the versatile Neapolitan artist stand out for their drama and dynamism. He also excelled in the fields of painting and architecture. The Borghese Gallery is probably the best place to discover and see with your own eyes the intensity and power of his creations. Don’t miss Apollo and Daphne, The Rape of Proserpina, David, and Aeneas, Anchises and Ascanius.
4. Antonio Canova
The Venetian painter and sculptor is one of the main advocates of neoclassical sculpture. Encouraged by his grandfather, he began his artistic training at an early age and came to be considered the best sculptor in Europe since the time of Bernini. Canova’s marble sculptures, which were inspired by Classical Antiquity, are characterized by their perfect finishes, whose ideal beauty can even be a bit distant. Some of his most outstanding works are Eros and Psyche (Louvre Museum), The Three Graces (Hermitage Museum) and Theseus and the Minotaur (Victoria and Albert Museum).
5. Auguste Rodin
This renowned French artist is considered the father of modern sculpture. Even after several years of studying drawing at the “National School of Drawing and Mathematics” the artist did not get into the prestigious “School of Fine Arts”, however Rodin continued to train on his own. After a trip to Italy, during which he was able to study the works of the great Renaissance masters, Rodin sculpted The Bronze Age, which would mark a turning point in his artistic career. At its peak, his workshop had around 50 employees. The master was in charge of molding the sculptures in clay or plaster, among other materials, and later, from his molds, the assistants were in charge of reproducing them in marble, bronze, etc.
Among his most outstanding works are The Thinker, The Kiss and The Gate of Hell. Visit the Rodin Museum in Paris to learn more about the career of this prolific artist.
6. Constantin Brâncuși
Brâncuși is a Romanian writer, photographer and painter, although he developed most of his artistic career in Paris, where he became friends with Rodin. As he got older his creations shifted from the realism characteristic of the 19th century to a style of his own. Inspired by prehistoric and African art, Brâncuși created his own style in which pure and simple forms dominated his works. This simplification of forms makes many consider him the pioneer of abstract sculpture. Some of the most repeated shapes in his creations are the egg, the elongated cylinder or the birds. The Kiss, The Sleeping Muse and Bird in Space are some of his most famous works.
7. Henry Moore
The acclaimed British sculptor is world-renowned for his abstract sculptures. The artist’s works are influenced by the Renaissance masters as well as the Toltec Mayan culture. In his early days Moore preferred to directly carve the rock or the material used in his creations, but he later switched to the molding technique. Most of his works are abstract representations of women, and sometimes of family groups, with a clear predominance of reclining figures, wavy shapes and empty spaces. The Reina Sofia Museum houses his work Leaf Shaped Figure 3, Leaf Shaped Figure 4, but many of his most acclaimed creations are found in public spaces, such as King and Queen, Reclining Woman or West Wind.
8. Alexander Calder
Although he also created static sculptures, Calder is world renowned for inventing mobile sculptures. Before enrolling in art school, the American sculptor had studied mechanical engineering. His abstract sculptures, made up of different pieces joined together by wires or ropes and usually suspended in the air, conquered the world. One of his most outstanding works is Floating Clouds, located in the Aula Magna of the University City of Caracas (declared a World Heritage Site, among other things, for the masterpieces it houses). Other recognized works include Cirque Calder, Flying Dragon, and Flamingo, among many others.
9. Alberto Giacometti
Giacometti was born in Switzerland into a family of artists (his father is the impressionist painter Giovanni Giacometti). After high school, the young artist moved to Paris to continue his training. It was here, near Montparnasse, where Giacometti opened his studio years later. In the 1930s, the Swiss artist came into contact with André Breton’s group of surrealist artists, and one of his best-known works, Suspended Ball, dates from this period. In the 1940s Giacometti moved away from surrealism to return to working with models. This is where he began his existentialist period, characterized by his famous elongated figures, such as Man Walking, Women of Venice, The Nose and The Cat.
10. Louise Bourgeois
Nicknamed “Spider Woman”, Louise Bourgeois is one of the most important contemporary artists. Her childhood traumas, caused in large part by her father’s infidelities, have inspired her work, as many of her creations are autobiographical. Among her most famous works are Destruction of the Father, Maman (the almost 30-foot-high spider that was exhibited at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao) and Arch of Hysteria.
11. Fernando Botero
The Colombian artist (painter and sculptor) can boast of having a style that is truly his own: “Boteroism”. His works, both pictorial and sculptural, are easily recognizable and volume plays a fundamental role in them. The artist deals with a wide variety of subjects, from nature and everyday life to religious and political matters. But regardless of the subject matter, his characters are always robust and stocky figures. Among his most famous sculptures we cannot fail to mention Cat (El Gato), which is already a symbol of Barcelona. In Oviedo we can enjoy Motherhood (La maternidad), and in Plaza de Colón in Madrid, Woman with a Mirror (La mujer con espejo).
12. Jaume Plensa
Jaume Plensa is a multifaceted artist, who in addition to being a sculptor, is also an engraver. He has created acoustic installations and opera stages, just to mention a few of his many artistic facets. He uses a wide range of materials for his works such as steel, cast iron, glass, resin, lights and sound. Plensa’s works can be found in the world’s major museums, but he is also well known for his astonishing installations in public spaces, many of them made up of letters and numbers. Some outstanding examples are: Rui Rui, Awilda & Irma, Mirall, and Julia.
13. Jeff Koons
Before dedicating himself to the art world, the American sculptor and painter was a stockbroker. Today, he is considered one of the main kitsch artists. Always surrounded by controversy, his works often reproduce everyday objects, inflatable toys or animals, and are easily recognizable. Balloon Dog, Puppy, and Bouquet of Tulips are some of his most famous creations.
14. Antony Gormley
In his works, the British sculptor explores the human body, its different positions and its relationship with space and time. For his first works, Gormley used his own body as a mold. Two of his most recognized works in public spaces are in England: Angel of the North, a gigantic angel (65 feet high and 175 feet wide) located in the County of Tyne and Wear; and Another Place, 100 iron figures looking out to sea on Crosby Beach near Liverpool.
15. Joana Vasconcelos
The Portuguese visual artist is best known for her sculptures and installations. She also happened to be the first woman to exhibit her work at the Palace of Versailles. Joana deals with all kinds of themes in her creations, from feminism to human rights, and is capable of transforming everyday objects (tiles, fabrics, cutlery) into authentic works of art. A good example of this is Marilyn, the giant shoes made with saucepans, and The Bride, a huge lamp created with tampons.