What Are Some Materials Used in Sculpture?

Some of the most common materials used in sculpture include bronze, various types of stone, welded steel and wood. The sculptor's repertoire of materials has not so much changed through the ages as it has been continually added to.

The earliest examples of sculpture are prehistoric reliefs found carved into rock. Later came the distinctive statuary and monuments of Ancient Egypt, chiseled out of slate, alabaster and limestone. Meanwhile, in Mesopotamia, the lighter materials of clay, wood and shells were being used and were often finished with delicate gold leaf.

In the Aegean, the Minoan civilization of Crete was known for its use of ivory and terracotta as well as solid gold.

The Ancient Greeks are well known for their limestone, bronze and marble sculptures, but they are likely to have made use of wood, too. Despite a common conception of Classical sculpture as white or colorless, the Greeks painted their statues in bright colors.

During the Renaissance, marble remained popular, along with Lucia della Robbia's introduction of glazed terracotta.

Nowadays, modern materials are regularly used in sculptures alongside their established forebears. Contemporary sculptor Ron Mueck, for instance, uses fiberglass, silicon and resin in addition to clay and plaster to make his hyper-realistic sculptures of people.