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Because of the durable materials used, sculpture is a medium that survives better than most other forms of art. It is this durability that has allowed sculpture to maintain such a strong influence on various cultures through many eras. Figural sculpture, featuring representational figures, has upheld a particularly strong influence because it has been prevalent for so long.
The popularity of figural sculpture can be traced back to Greek antiquity, which revered sculptures that were not naturalistic but instead idealized and geometric. Around 480 B.C., classical sculpture emphasized realism and encouraged the artist's reliance on observation. It was this Greco-Roman style of sculpture that capitalized on the potential that realism had in figural art.
Realism in figural sculpture remained popular for centuries until the latter part of the 1800s ,when Auguste Rodin's rough, unfinished forms gave way to modern sculpture that no longer upheld realism. Today, figural sculptures can still be seen frequently, especially in the form of large monuments and public artwork.
Many of Rodin's most notable sculptures were criticized for clashing with the principal tradition of figure sculpture in which works were highly decorative, formulaic, or thematic
Three types of figures were most common during the development of Greek sculpture: the standing draped girl, the standing nude, and the seated woman
As Rome grew more confident during the reign of Augustus (31 B.C.-14 A.D.), sculptures of its leaders appeared in more high-minded poses, but never leaving behind the Roman sense of gravitas