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Steel Sculptures

The art of creating sculpture out of steel has greatly evolved since its initial popularity in the 19th century. Though steel sculptures are revered for their durability, sculptors often face the technical challenge of cleanly joining the steel planes along their narrow edges, which has led to several developments in the technique over the centuries.

In the late 19th century, academic sculptors used iron engineering to make joints in their works by bolting and riveting. During World War I, artists such as Picasso began to experiment with metal assemblies using wires and bolts without industrial techniques.

By World War II, David Smith and Anthony Caro adopted electric arc-welding of steel and small factory production methods. This is more reflective of today’s artists working with steel, who often rely on steel firms to produce their ideas.

Quick Facts

  • Sculptors working with steel today often look to advances in industrial metallurgy and engineering for updates in their techniques
  • Alexander Calder, one of the most revered contemporary sculptors, works mostly with steel and increasingly relies on the assistance of metal working shops such as Segre's Ironworks
  • Electric arc welding made the cutting and joining of steel possible during World War I

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