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Wood Sculpture

Wood and stone were the some of the first materials carved by humans to make tools. Although wood was very commonly used, only few objects survived through the centuries as its decomposes faster and can be destroyed more easily than bronze or stone for example.

Between 700 and 900, most woodcarvers lived in monasteries. Travelling from monastery to monastery, these carvers were few and far between. The was a relatively prescriptive style and many remaining sculptures from this period are quite similar. This era was marked by the constraints of iconoclasm: many religious objects made of wood were destroyed because of the condemnation of representation of religious subjects.

Many sculptures have also been found in England and Scandinavian countries. Wood is also widely used in Africa to create masks, small statues and objects, as well as in India and by aboriginal artists in Australia.

In Europe, it was in the 15th and 16th centuries that wooden sculpture became highly developed, especially in Germany. This was thanks to Gothic sculptors such as Tilman Riemenschneider, Veit Stoss, Michael Pacher, Gregor Erhart and Jorg Zurn who pushed the medium to its limits, creating astonishingly detailed works.

Woodcarving reappeared in the 17th century in England as Baroque ornaments grew in popularity. Master Grinling Gibbons's was a leading artist of the time and one of the few woodcarvers to be widely recognised in his homeland. In France, Rococo brought woodcarving back into fashion, with designers such as Lelange, Foliot and Cressent, who focused on creating furniture.

Several modern artists also used wood, notably Brancusi, who was influenced by the classical tradition which emphasised the finish and materiality of the wood. Henry Moore preferred using this valuable material to create his abstract and evocative shapes, while Barbara Hepworth created incredibly modern works of art and Paul Gauguin used wood to reconnect with and learn from primitive techniques...

Wood is very different from other materials, such as resin or bronze, as it is quite fragile and requires a wide range of tools.The technique to be used differs according to the desired shape because the sculpture can take the form of a low-relief or be carved in the round (a sculpture on base that the viewer can walk around). One must first source planks of wood, flattened, dried and calibrated. Next, a sketch of the sculpture is drawn onto the support, the bulk of the wood is then removed and the object is shaped more carefully using u-gouges to remove as much excess material. Finally, the finer details as well as shadow play are added using a range of tools including flat gouges, chisels, and carving knives.

Artsper features a wide selection of modern wooden sculptures by Nando Stevoli, Gaspard Mitz, César Orrico, Marc Laffolay, Lesley Hilling or Valérie Carmet.

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