Rodin, Michelangelo, Donatello—these are the names of the innovative visionaries behind some of the greatest sculptures in art history.
Sculptors like these gifted creatives have the unique opportunity to bring their subject to life and manipulate materials to defy the expectations of spectators. Whether chiseling marble or casting in bronze, there is no denying the power of sculpture.
From the ancient Greeks to 20th-century Modernists, this look at 10 famous sculptors is a timeline of the development of Western art. Without each artist’s contributions, it would difficult to imagine visual culture as we now know it.
Learn more about 10 famous sculptors who have helped shape Western art and culture.
PRAXITELES (ACTIVE 4TH CENTURY BCE)
“Aphrodite of Knidos” Marble, Roman copy after a Greek original of the 4th century by Praxiteles. (Photo: Museo Nazionale Romano di Palazzo Altemps [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
Though it’s difficult to know much about the great sculptors of ancient Greece, one name has stood the test of time. Thanks to the work of great authors like Pliny the Elder and Vitruvius, Praxiteles has become a name synonymous with ancient Greek sculpture. None of his original statues survived, but we are familiar with his work thanks to Roman copies of the originals.
DONATELLO (C. 1386 – 1466)
“Penitent Magdalene” by Donatello (Photo: Divot [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
Italian sculptor Donatello was fundamental in pushing forward art and culture during the Italian Renaissance. Primarily working in Florence, much of his work can still be found in the city today.
MICHELANGELO (1475 – 1564)
“David” by Michelangelo. (Photo: Stock Photos from Marta Pons Moreta/Shutterstock)
While he’s associated closely with fresco art due to his impressive Sistine Chapel ceiling, Michelangelo is really a sculptor at heart. He believed that every block of marble contained a work of art waiting to be released, and he just needed to chip away until it appeared.
GIANLORENZO BERNINI (1598 – 1680)
‘Pluto and Persephone’ by Bernini. (Photo: Stock Photos from wjarek/Shutterstock)
Perhaps no other artist defines the Baroque era more than Gianlorenzo Bernini, whose impressive career spanned for nearly 70 years.
AUGUSTE RODIN (1840 – 1917)
A cast of “The Thinker” by Rodin. (Photo: Stock Photos from Sean Neal/Shutterstock)
French sculptor Auguste Rodin is generally thought to have brought sculpture into the modern age. Classically trained, he came to international attention after his works were displayed at the World’s Fair.
CONSTANTIN BRANCUSI (1876 – 1957)
“Endless Column” by Brancusi. (Photo: Stock Photos from Radu Bercan/Shutterstock)
One of the most influential sculptors of the 20th century, Constantin Brancusi was a pioneer of Modernism. The Romanian artist was greatly influenced by folk traditions, though he also sought inspiration in cultures outside of Europe.
ALBERTO GIACOMETTI (1901 – 1966)
Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti is perhaps most recognized for his thin, elongated figures. Their rough texture allows viewers to see the force of the sculptor, who was also a painter and printmaker.
HENRY MOORE (1898 – 1986)
“Reclining Figure” by Henry Moore. (Photo: Stock Photos from Ron Ellis/Shutterstock)
Known for his semi-abstract public sculptures, English artist Henry Moore was the preeminent post-World War II sculptor both in Britain and abroad.
SOL LEWITT (1928 – 2007)
‘Tower’ by Sol Lewitt. (Photo: Public domain via Wikipedia)
Recognized as a founder of both Minimalism and Conceptualism, Sol LeWitt rose to prominence in the late 1960s. The American artist preferred the term “structures” over sculptures.
LOUISE BOURGEOIS (1911 – 2010)
‘Maman’ by Louise Bourgeois. (Photo: Stock Photos from tichr/Shutterstock)
Most well-known for her public art and installations, French-American sculptor Louise Bourgeois rose to international acclaim in 1982 after the Museum of Modern Art held her first retrospective.