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Bronze Busts: Sculpture Glossary
Capturing both Spirit & Likeness


Defining our terms is vital for a full understanding of the subject

Some of the keywords for sculpture - in no particular order are:
sculpture - sculptures - sculptor - sculptors - portrait - portraits - bronze portrait - sculpture portrait - portrait sculpture - bust - bronze bust - bas relief - relief - architectural sculpture - realistic sculpture - figurative sculpture - abstract sculpture - mixed media sculpture - ornamental sculpture - portraiture - art - artist - plastic arts - public art - collector - art collector - sculpture collector - commission - sculpture commission - sculpture site - art site - statuary - fountain - sculpt - model - carve - sculpting - modelling - carving

But what do they all mean? And what about the many other words of the subject? Below are some sculpture-related words and their definitions (in order this time) and we plan to keep updating the glossary over the coming months and years. Naturally since we're talking about sculpture here, the angle we've taken for most definitions relates mainly to that particular artform - so these definitions are sometimes only "partial". We appreciate any feedback from visitors - and any comments, corrections or additions you'd like to make are welcome.

Abstract
Any art in which the depiction of real objects in nature has been subordinated or entirely discarded, and whose aesthetic content is expressed in a formal pattern or structure of shapes, lines and colours. Sometimes, the subject is real but so stylized, blurred, repeated or broken down into basic forms as to be unrecognizable. Sculpture that is partly broken down in this way is called semiabstract. When the representation of real objects is completely absent, as opposed to realistic or figurative sculpture, such art may also be called nonrepresentational or nonobjective, a term first used by Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944). An abstract element or intention appears in works of art and decoration throughout the history of art, from Neolithic stone carvings onward. But abstraction as an aesthetic principle began in the early 20th century with Braque (1882-1963).

Architectural
With relation to sculpture, architectural means any component of a building or structure which has been modelled, carved or welded by a sculptor and integrated into the whole in some manner so as to embellish or enhance it, as distinguished from work created for display independently. A caryatid is an example of this. And so is an ornate fireplace surround or mantel. The two subjects or artforms of sculpture and architecture have been closely related through the ages.

Armature
A construction made of wood, light or heavy metal wire, bars or piping or any other suitably rigid material to support the wet clay, wet plaster or other soft and pliable mixed media materials used by a sculptor to model or construct a sculpture.

Art
1. The making or doing (hence the terms maker, creator, and artist) by people of things that have form and beauty - see note immediately following this entry. Sculpture, painting, architecture, music, literature, poetry, drama, dance, and cinema are some of the forms of art. 2. The actual sculptures, drawings, paintings, films made by artists. 3. Any of certain areas of learning as philosophy, sculpture, music, etc. usually plural: arts. 4. The ability to make or do things; skill (the art of cooking). 5. Any craft or special knowledge (the art of healing). 6. A sly or cunning trick; wile (the arts of a successful politician). Synonym study for the word Art: Art is the ability to make or do something, especially something beautiful, in an original way. Skill is the ability of an expert at doing something, especially something that is useful or practical. Craft is the ability to do something takes skill, but has been traditionally viewed as requiring less imagination than art. (Sculpting a portrait is an art. Making a mould is a skill. Making a body cast or moulage could be considered to be a craft).

A special note by Laury Dizengremel on art: Beauty enters into the definition of art, yet since the consideration of beauty and ugliness is only that - considerations that people have, we find it often hard to distinguish what is really meant by "good art" and "bad art". Obviously good or poor execution comes into it. But that is hardly the only yardstick. Beauty in a piece does not depend upon its content matter which may in itself be deemed ugly (war scene, madness, severe injury, mutilation, etc.), but on whether it communicates a message that can be received by viewers, how well it communicates it and how well executed the piece is.
I enjoy above all the definition of philosopher Ron Hubbard for art in his rough notes on the subject:
"ART is a word which summarizes the quality of communication. It therefore follows the laws of communication"
He also says quite aptly: " Living itself can be an art".


Art for art's sake
When you proclaim the independence of aesthetic values intrinsic in a work of art from storytelling, moral values or any other purposes or motives. From the French: "l'art pour l'art."

Artist's proof
One of the first proofs in a limited edition of original sculptures. Must bear the artist's signature or mark, and, since the early 20th century, is usually numbered. On a sculpture the appropriate mark is A/P.

Assembly
One of the 4 main methods a sculptor may use to achieve a desired overall form. Basically constructing or adding existing shapes, objects or materials to one another in a method other than welding to create a whole sculpture. See the other 3 main ones:carving, modelling and welding. Note: say "main" with a sculptural tongue in your cheek as artists are by definition always creating - not least the methods by which to create with!!!

Bas relief
French for low relief. Basso-rilievo in Italian. In a bas relief, the figures project only slightly and no part is entirely detached from the background (as in medals and coins, in which the chief effect is produced by the play of light and shadow). See Relief and Haut relief.

Base
Also called plinth. The base is what the sculpture is attached, fixed or mounted on. A block (of any shape or dimension and material placed between a sculpture and its pedestal). These terms can all be confused as a pedestal is also defined as a base or foundation!

Bronze
An alloy of copper and tin, sometimes containing small amounts of other elements in varying proportions such as zinc and phosphorus. Harder and more durable than brass and used extensively since antiquity for casting sculpture. Bronze alloys vary in colour from silvery hues to rich, coppery red. Different countries have different standards for the mix - and mixes also may vary from one foundry to another. In its molten form, bronze is poured into the main channel or sprue of an investment casing surrounding a sculpture to produce the final cast piece of artwork.

Bust
In sculpture, a portrait of a person that includes the head, neck, and part of the shoulders and breast, usually (but not always) mounted on a base or column. It is by definition figurative.It can be realistic or not. Compare with Portrait. Sizes can vary from miniature to smaller than lifesize, lifesize, heroic or monumental.

Callipers
A device with two moveable jaws used by sculptors to take measurements in the round while working. Also used when making copies of original work. Callipers come in different sizes. Sculptor's callipers were originally only made of wood with brass fittings - but can now also be found in metal or plastic.

Carve
The process (quite exact and "unforgiving") of taking away material from a given volume. Used on wood, stone, marble, plaster, ice or other "hard" materials. In sculpture, it is the act of cutting or incising the material into the desired form using knives, chisels, gouges, points, saws, adzes and hammers. Usually a chisel is held in one hand and driven into the material by a mallet held in the other. Modern sculptors often "rough out" their sculptures using electrically powered tools. Deemed "unforgiving" because you cannot afford to make the mistake of taking too much material away!

Carving
1. See previous entry (Carve). 2. The sculpture resulting from being carved. A carved work may be called a carving, but the word sculpture is often used in preference for work of serious artistic and aesthetic value.

Caryatid
In architectural sculpture, the female figure that serves as a column supporting an entablature. Usually a graceful figure dressed in long robes. From the Greek. Male counterparts are Atlantes or Telamones.

Cast
1. To reproduce an object, such as piece of clay sculpture, by means of a mould (or mold). Also an artist may choose to cast from life real objects, or parts of a body or the entire body. This is often referred to as moulage or life casting. 2. A copy produced by this means. The original piece is usually of a less durable material than the cast. See foundry and mould.

Casting
1. The process of making a mould (plaster, or rubber, polymer and plaster, etc.) from an original. Also, loosely, the activities that take place in the foundry. See Cast.

Cement
1. A building material made of lime, silica and alumina. Can be surface-coloured or loaded with pigments for an all-through colour. Can be used to create outdoor sculptures. The sculptor will either cast his sculpture by pouring the cement into a mould made from an original piece in a softer material, or work the cement onto a metal armature or other armature from suitably rigid material using a variety of tools. 2. Any strong adhesive used to join or repair materials such as rubber cement or cellulose cement.

Clay
1. A native earth consisting mainly of decomposed feldspathic rock (feldspathic: grouping of crystalline minerals that consist of aluminum silicates with either potassium, sodium, calcium or barium) containing kaolin and other hydrous aluminous minerals. Becomes hard when baked or fired. See Terra cotta. Used wet by the sculptor to build or model the form, often over an armature of wood or metal: it is then called wet clay - as compared with what is often called modelling clay 2. Sold under various names such as Plasticine and Plastilina, originally made in Italy with tallow, sulphur and high-quality clay. Also made less expensively with clay, an inert filler and various petroleum oils and greases heated and thoroughly mixed - can be variously coloured, i.e. made with graphite oil it is blackish and yellow/green if made with normal car oil.

Core
In sculpture / mould-making / casting terms, the core is the solid internal portion of an investment mould for casting a hollow piece of sculpture (such as a portrait). The amount of space left between the core and the mould (occupied by wax before it is "lost), determines the thickness of the cast metal. The core is made of foundry sand (can also be same as investment material) in sand casting and in the lost-wax process.

Edition
The making of replicas or copies of a sculptor's work. See Limited edition.

Faux
From the French "false". Said of any composited material made to look like another material or to a false finish given to a sculpture. "Faux marble" is usually reconstituted marble powder incorporated into resin, but it could also be a marble finish effect on (for example) a plaster cast.

Figurative
Of or portraying the (human or animal) figure. Figurative sculpture can be either realistic (in varying degrees...) or stylized.

Firing
Exposing to heat in a kiln a clay body to harden it (see Terra cotta) or an investment casing containing wax so as to "lose it" which is an integral part of the lost-wax process . See Foundry.

Foundry
The building or place where the casting of bronze takes place by the lost-wax, sand casting or ceramic shell processes. Typically a foundry will have subdivisions of activities taking place. Most often these breaks down to mould making or the making of a negative container, then the pouring of wax into the moulds, cleaning up the seams from the wax, then making a core, spruing and gating the wax cast of the sculpture with wax strips or rods (sprues and gates) which will ensure the smooth arrival of the molten metal into the negative space formed when the wax is "lost", encasing the entire piece into an investment, then "losing" the wax out of the invested piece by firing it, finally pouring the molten bronze into the main sprue, hacking away the investment material, cutting off the bronze sprues and gates, chasing away any other unwanted bronze (or filling in any holes), chiselling, and then either polishing, or applying a patina and or wax to the sculpture. Mounting the final piece on a base is sometimes also an intricate part of the foundry's work. Foundries will often assist a sculptor with the installation and securing of large pieces.

Gate
In casting, any of the several channels or ducts through which molten material is carried from the main channel or sprue, to the hollow part of the investment mould or casing. The waste piece of material formed by such a duct is also called a gate, and is removed from the cast metal along with the sprue as the first stage of cleaning up the sculpture. A gate is also sometimes called a runner.

Haut relief
French for high or deep relief. Alto-rilievo in Italian. In a haut relief sculpture the figures project at least half of their natural circumference from the background. See Relief and Bas relief.

Installation
A mode of work in which art elements (sculptural or otherwise) are installed in a location, either responding to the site itself (called site-specific installation) or not.

Investment
A containing negative mould, used in sculpture for casting metals. It consists of either earth clay and sand or plaster of Paris mixed with clay, pulverized plaster, asbestos fibres and glue size when mixed up for the lost-wax process. Also sometimes called casing.

Limited edition
The set number of replicas or copies a sculptor plans to make or has had made from an original, after which the mould is destroyed. The practice of limiting editions and numbering proofs originated with etching and drypoint, in which the quality of the proofs declines as the copper plate begins to show signs of wear. By thus limiting the size of an edition to first-rate examples of a sculptor's work, the sculptor protects his or her artistic integrity and the value of the works to the collector. There is no technical reason for limiting or numbering editions of works of art that are made by processes capable of turning out an indefinite number of uniformly good copies, such as lithography or casting methods that employ durable moulds - and in any case a new mould can be taken from the original to extend an edition (if not limited). Editions are frequently limited however for financial reasons; by ensuring the relative rarity of the sculptor's work, he or she increases its value.

Marble
In its entire form, one of the hardest stones to carve; in fact a hard type of limestone (more or less crystallized by metamorphism), often with streaks. Takes a high polish if desired. Also one of the most expensive stones and therefore prized. In its powdered form, can be used to create bonded marble casts or "faux" marble as an alternative to plaster as a casting material. Resin can be loaded with marble powder, as can a cement mix.

Metal
1. A chemical element that is more or less shiny, can be hammered, welded or stretched, as iron, gold, aluminum, lead and magnesium. Distinguished from an alloy. In wire or wire mesh form (of varying dimensions) can also be used to create sculpture. Metalwork is the term used to describe the making of things from metal. 2. Glass in its molten state.

Mixed Media
The term is generally used when two or more media are used in a single work of art, e.g. metal and wood, or metal, wood and stone. Mixed media include plastics, fibres, and any man-made or natural element that can be used to model or otherwise construct a sculpture.

Medium
Referred to as the material used for a given sculpture. Bronze, terra cotta, plaster and steel are all examples of media.

Model - Modelling (UK) - Modeling (US)
The (very "forgiving", highly satisfying physically and emotionally) process whereby a sculptor adds (bit by bit) wet clay or other soft medium such as wet plaster or cement or other media to build up or construct his or her original artwork - often using an armature. It is essentially an additive, not a substractive process as contrasted with carving, though substraction can also be and is often used in the process of achieving the desired shapes. (Thus "forgiving"...)

Mould (UK) - Mold (US)
A hollow, or negative container used in the process of casting to give its form to a substance placed within (wax for the bronze lost-wax process, or plaster, cement, resin loaded or not with slate, marble or bronze powder, etc.) and allowed to harden. Moulds can be made of plaster entirely, or in rubber with an outer plaster jacket (also called mother mould or casing). A one piece mould that must be destroyed to get the cast out is called a waste mould. A mould consisting of two or more separable pieces is called a piece mould. Often a sculptor will see his finished bronze sculpture through the making of two such negative moulds either himself or at the foundry. A first one to produce the mould in which the wax positive is poured. A second one built in (core) and around the wax positive and its sprue and gates, from which the wax is lost by firing in a kiln, and which is hacked off to reveal the rough cast bronze from which the sprue and gates will have to be removed. Metal casting is done by sand casting in which the negative, containing a mould and a positive core - allowing the final piece to be hollow - are made of foundry sand.

Patina - Patination
The layman can relate to patina when it is defined as a mellowing of tone or texture acquired by aging and use in furniture, leather, or paintings. In sculpture, it is a film or incrustation that forms on copper or bronze after a certain amount of weathering and as the result of the oxidation of the copper contained within bronze. When green, it is known as aerugo or verdigris. Patinas are often made to occur in the foundry upon the sculptor's request by special treatments that duplicate the green copper carbonates and hydated oxides of natural bronze patinas. Rarer bluish and reddish patinas can also be effected. A patina is normally a kind of protection, which tends to retard further corrosion considerably. However sometimes a malignant type of corrosion known as bronze disease occurs. The process whereby a patina is either naturally acquired or artificially induced is known as patination. Some sculptors imitate the patination process on non-metallic sculpture with the use of oils, waxes and pigments: i.e., shoe polish on plaster.

Pedestal
1a. The support or foot of a late classic or neoclassic column. b. The base of an upright structure. 2. Base, foundation or support for a sculpture.

Portrait
A portrait in sculpture comprises of the head only or head and neck. Compare with Bust.

Realistic
Sculpture is dubbed realistic when it portrays real life objects or people or recognizable, identifiable shapes. In general, the term used for the depiction of human figures, real objects or scenes as they appear, without (and this differentiates its definition from that of figurative), distortion or stylization. Can also be used to mean representational or objective sculpture as distinguished from abstract sculpture.

Relief
In sculpture, any work that projects from the background. Reliefs are classified by degree of projection. Relief sculpture is distinguished from sculpture in the round. In a bas relief (low relief or basso-relievo in Italian), the figures project only slightly and no part is entirely detached from the background (as in medals, coins, or areas of large reliefs in which the chief effect is produced by the play of light and shadow). In a haut relief sculpture (high relief or alto-rilievo), the figures project at least half of their natural circumference from the background. Between these two is the demi relief (half-relief or mezzo-relievo). The lowest degree of relief in which the projection barely exceeds the thickness of a sheet of paper is called a crushed relief (relievo sticciato or schiacciato). There is also a relief in reverse, called hollow relief, in which all the carving lies within a hollowed-out area below the surface plane, and which, through an illusion of depth and roundness, looks like raised relief. Hollow relief, also called sunk or concave relief (cavo-relievo), incised relief (intaglio-rilievato) are the kind of carving done on gems by the Greeks and Romans. Reliefs may be carved from hard materials or modelled in wet clay, softened wax, or plaster. Reliefs are often elements of architectural sculpture.

Sculpt
The process of creating what is described in the next entry... Also see the links there as all 4 main methods apply when defining the verb "to sculpt"!

Sculpture
Artform, 3-D or three dimensional - created in the round which can be seen from all perspectives except the bottom or back (when it is resting or placed down or against a surface, unless hanging from a ceiling or other means) - or created as a relief by a sculptor. See assembly, carving, modelling and welding.

Sprue
In casting, the entrance hole and main channel in the wall of a mould through which the liquid material (bronze or other metal) is poured; it is joined to the model by smaller channels called gates. The waste material formed by the channel is also called sprue and is cut away after the investment material is removed, as the first step of cleaning up a cast metal sculpture.

Steel
Medium used for sculpture, steel is a commercial iron that contains carbon in any amount up to 1.7 percent as an essential alloying constituent, is malleable when under suitable conditions and is distinghished from cast iron by its malleability and lower carbon content.

Stone
1. Cut rock, suitable for carving and building. One of the traditional materials of the sculptor, it has been carved, drilled, and polished since prehistoric times. The most widely available stones for sculpture are alabaster, granite, marble, sandstone and limestone. 2. In the commercial world, any stone except marble.

Terra Cotta
1. Literally "Cooked Earth". Italian for fired or baked clay. "Terre cuite" in French. The end product of a fired sculpture. 2. The term terra cotta clay is often used for any clay suitable for shaping and firing, except for the very fine porcelain clays.

Welding
The process of joining together two pieces of metal by fusion. Intense heat is applied by an oxyacetylene torch in gas or oxacetylene welding, and by electrical means in arc welding. Sometimes a filler rod is melted along the joint, in the process known as brazing. The direct welding of two pieces by combining the molten edges is called fusion welding. It is done at much higher temperatures than soldering and results in stronger, more durable joints. It is used in making direct metal sculpture and comes under the general term of assembly - as opposed to carving and modelling.

3-D
Three dimensional. Sculpture can be referred to as a 3-D artform as opposed to painting which is 2-D or two dimensional.

Acknowledgements: This glossary has been compiled by Laury Dizengremel using various dictionaries.... adding to, expanding or modifying definitions using her own experience where required. If you wish to use this glossary or parts thereof on any other website, please only do so with an acknowledgement to the author.

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