20th Century

The 20th century brought significant changes to sculpture. The abandonment of realism and figuration, which had already become apparent in the 19th century, finally culminated in abstraction. Many art epochs of the 20th century still influence contemporary sculpture today.

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20th century

Sculptures of the 20th Century: Changes in Three-Dimensional Works of Art

During the 20th century, the developments in sculpture that had already become apparent in the 19th century continued. Probably the most significant change in the visual arts was the rejection of realistic or figurative representation, which finally ended in abstraction. The first tendencies towards this were already discernible at the turn of the century - for example with Impressionism and later Expressionism. Many other styles that still influence contemporary art today had their origins in the 20th century, such as kinetics or found object. Some famous 20th-century artists working in sculpture are Alberto Giacometti, Henry Moore, Tony Cragg, Bruce Nauman, Richard Serra, Nikki de Saint Phalle, Georg Baselitz, Markus Lüpertz, Alfred Hrdlicka, Jeff Koons or Damien Hirst.

The Dawn of Modern Sculpture: Expressionism and Cubism

Until the late 19th century, sculpture dealt exclusively with concrete objects and people and was committed to depicting motifs as realistically as possible. At the latest with Expressionism at the end of the 19th century, sculptors liberated themselves from this design principle and increasingly expressed their subjective view of things and their emotions in their works. Thus, realistic proportions increasingly made way for lines guided by the artists' impulses. Artists from Germany such as Wilhelm Lehmbruck, Ernst Barlach and Georg Kolbe created works at the beginning of the century that became ground-breaking for modern sculpture. Cubism also had a strong influence on 20th-century art at the turn of the century. In addition to his paintings, Pablo Picasso created sculptures in which, as in his paintings, he reverted to standardised forms. With this style, he was to have a decisive influence on famous 20th-century artists such as Alberto Giacometti and Henry Moore.

A New Start in Sculpture: Kinetics, Found Object, Abstraction

The tendency to no longer consider the depiction of nature as the task of sculpture culminated in abstraction. The Constructivists had already left representationalism behind and worked predominantly with basic geometric forms. For example, the Dutch De Stijl movement and the Bauhaus in Germany relied on clear lines and reduced forms, although they did not completely abandon figuration. In the first half of the 20th century, the reinterpretation of sculpture continued. Among the milestones of the 20th century, art is kinetic sculptures, such as those by Alexander Calder or later by Jean Tinguely. They created partly space-occupying mobiles made of metal or motor-driven machines that moved but had no recognisable function. The "found objects" were also ground-breaking avant-garde art pieces. Their pioneer Marcel Duchamp made use of everyday objects and rededicated them to art by placing them in new contexts or minimally manipulating them.

Contemporary Concepts of Sculpture: From Pop Art to Mixed Media

Sculpture continued to develop significantly in the second half of the 20th century. In the 1960s, for example, the ideas of Pop Art were also reflected in sculptures. Claes Oldenburg, for example, created monstrously enlarged, stylised everyday objects for public spaces, and Robert Indiana became world famous for his "LOVE" sculptures made of oversized letters. Minimal Art, with its highly reduced stylistic idiom, originated in the USA. In addition, the tendency developed to combine sculptures with other disciplines and styles. Thus, the boundaries to other forms of design, such as installation, object art or light art became fluid. In addition to the styles already mentioned, numerous other forms of design developed in the 20th century that also had a lasting influence on art in the 20th century, for example, DaDa, Surrealism or Nouveau Réalisme.