You Gotta Know These Sculptors
Michelangelo (1475 - 1564) A Florentine "Renaissance man" also known for architecture (the dome of St. Peter's Basilica), painting (The Last Judgment and the Sistine Chapel ceiling), poetry, and military engineering. His sculpted masterpieces include David, a Pietà, Bacchus, and a number of pieces for the tomb of Pope Julius II (including Dying Slave and Moses). He preferred to work in Carraran marble.
Auguste Rodin (1840 - 1917) A French sculptor known for stormy relationships with "the establishment" of the École des Beaux-Arts [ay-kohl day boh-zar] and his mistress, fellow artist Camille Claudel. His works include The Age of Bronze, Honoré de Balzac, The Burghers of Calais, and a massive pair of doors for the Museum of Decorative Arts (the Gates of Hell) inspired by Dante's Inferno. That latter work included his most famous piece, The Thinker.
Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598 - 1680) A Roman who, with the rarely asked-about Francesco Borromini, defined the Baroque movement in sculpture. Bernini is principally known for his freestanding works including David and The Ecstasy of St. Theresa. Bernini's David differs from that of Michelangelo in that the hero is shown "in motion," having twisted his body to sling the rock. Bernini is also known for his massive fountains in Rome including the Triton and the Fountain of the Four Rivers.
Donatello (1386 - 1466) A Florentine sculptor who helped define Renaissance sculpture as distinct from that of the Gothic period. He is known for St. Mark and St. George in the Or San Michele [OR SAHN mee-KAY-lay] (a Florentine church), the bald Zuccone (which means "pumpkin-head," though it depicts the prophet Habbakuk), and the first equestrian statue to be cast since Roman times, the Gattamelata in Padua. He is also known for mastering the low relief form of schiacciato.
Lorenzo Ghiberti (1378 - 1455) A Florentine sculptor and goldsmith who taught both Donatello and Filippo Brunelleschi. He is best known for two pairs of bronze doors on the Florence Baptistery (associated with the Duomo, or Florentine Cathedral). He produced a single, low-relief panel to win a 1401 competition (defeating Brunelleschi) for the commission to design the 28 panels for the north doors. After that, he was given another commission to design ten panels for the east doors. This latter work, by far his most famous, was dubbed the "Gates of Paradise" by Michelangelo.
Gutzon Borglum (1867 - 1941) An American known for crafting Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota. He is also known for The Mares of Diomedes and an unfinished (and later replaced) tribute to Confederate heroes on Stone Mountain in Georgia.
Phidias (c. 480 BC - c. 430 BC) An Athenian considered the greatest of all Classical sculptors. He created the chryselephantine (gold and ivory) Statue of Zeus at Olympia (one of the Wonders of the Ancient World, now lost) and the statue of Athena in the Parthenon (now lost). He was supported by money from the Delian League (that is, the Athenian Empire) run by his friend Pericles; he was later ruined by charges of corruption generally considered to be part of a political campaign against Pericles.
Constantin Brancusi (1876 - 1957) A Romanian sculptor who was a major figure in Modernism. He is best known for The Kiss (not to be confused with the Rodin work or the Klimt painting), Sleeping Muse, and Bird in Space. He's also the center of anecdote in which U.S. customs taxed his works as "industrial products" since they refused to recognize them as art.
Daniel Chester French (1850 - 1931) An American who created The Minute Man for Concord, Massachusetts and Standing Lincoln for the Nebraska state capitol, but who is best known for the seated statue in the Lincoln Memorial.
Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi (1834-1904) A French sculptor primarily known as the creator of Liberty Enlightening the World, better known as the Statue of Liberty. He also executed The Lion of Belfort and a statue of the Marquis de Lafayette in New York's Union Square.