Sculpture vs. Painting

For centuries a debate went on over which was a “nobler” art: painting or sculpture.

The painters said they had to invent everything and the sculptor practically nothing. His material, stone, was already a finished work of nature—beautiful, imposing. Someone pretty sophistically even said the only thing the sculptor had to do was remove the stone from a figure that was already in the block.

“Oh, come on,” said the sculptors. “A statue is a greater problem, and therefore a greater achievement, because we have to come up with a figure that looks good from many points of view, whereas you painters have only one view to worry about.”

Painters smiled at that one and went on sucking their pipes. They had plenty of arguments in their bag. “We have to invent the very light in our picture; it is already given to you sculptors by heaven. All you have to do is take advantage of natural light.”

Sculptors smiled back—a dustier smile, of course. “Our art requires much greater discipline and skill because of the serious limitations of the medium. Sculpture is like a sonnet, with the rhyme, the meter, and the lines fixed. You painters don’t have many limitations—you can depict anything: clouds, rainy days, things floating through the air.”

And so, back and forth.

See Gianlorenzo Bernini’s contribution to this debate

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5 Responses to Sculpture vs. Painting

  1. Snehal says:

    Good thoughts!

    none is lesser coz it is a personal choice of any artist. It is his understanding and flexibility wz the medium.

    Personally I find 3D more challenging and interesting. It allows u to explore more thus allows more creativity in my case.

    However its pretty said that sculpture always recieves a second place in art.

  2. 100swallows says:

    Thank you, Snehal.
    I myself can’t decide between them. A sculpted figure takes so long! You model it, then make a mold and a plaster copy, then chip it out of stone or take it to the foundry and patch up the wax version and the raw bronze. When I’m going through all these steps I start to miss COLOR and what by comparison seems the quick and easy art of painting a picture (which gets a better response from more people, no matter what you paint–or so it seems).

  3. I found those pictures of Backhouse’s horse with thick anckles. I promise never to bring the subject up again 100 swallows! happy New Year.

    • 100swallows says:

      Thanks, Robert. I saw your post and meant to comment. I agree with you: the thick ankles bother. I also agree with Chris that a work of art should be free but then it can be disliked for precisely the liberties the artist takes. Those thick ankles and cannon bones, no matter this fictitious horse’s breed, do take away from the sense of motion or lightness of the gallop. I also think it was an aesthetic error to lower the head that way–even if the sculptor wanted to highlight that great line of the back and withers (enormous mountain of shoulders!). In the dark, doesn’t it look headless?
      I much prefer your light, tap-dancing beauties.

  4. Pingback: The Sculptor Is the Least of Artists | The Best Artists

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