Difference Between Painting and Sculpture

Difference Between Painting and Sculpture

What is the difference between painting and sculpture?

In the simplest terms, the difference between painting and sculpture: paintings are generally 2 dimensional representations and sculptures are 3 dimensional.

difference between painting and sculpture

Dimensional Difference

Painting is 2 dimensional most of the time its an attempt to make a two dimensional surface look three dimensional, but theres more fun ways to paint like modern art and use anything thats aesthetically pleasing, is on a canvas and is hand made.

Sculptures on the other hand are three dimensional and they’re usually an attempt at making something rigid look like something its not, for example in most old sculptures from roman eras and all they sculpt clothes which look as if you could touch them and they’d feel like actual linen. again modern sculptures exist too which are to be honest as beautiful as sculptures based on realism.

Aside from the obvious 2d/3d dichotomy, painting relies fundamentally on one or any combination of surface, colour, shade and illusion whereas sculpture is, predominantly, about shape.

The Trend of Painting and Sculpture Blend

Yes, sculpture is three dimensional and painting is two dimensional, in fact, flatness of the surface has been a strong discussion among art. But there is more to say about that. Painting has broken the limits between those two. Picasso for example, started to create paintings where those limits became less and less clear:

Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso ‘Bottle of Vieux Marc, Glass, Guitar and Newspaper’

Guitar (1913) by Pablo Picasso

This works are papier collé by Pablo Picasso. The difference with collage is that the first one is related only to paper while the last can incorporate other elements. See this image for example. See the newspaper. In some parts is behind, in some parts is at the front, breaking the idea of two dimensions. There are other works where this is even more obvious but I couldn’t find them, but I have seen them and the paper really sticks out and you see it going out of the canvas.

Other artists like Rauschenberg has taken this idea farther:



Is this work (Canyon) a painting or a sculpture? We could say is both, so where is the limit? (Funny fact about this work. It’s value is 52 million dollars but its price in the market is 0 because he used a dissected eagle so it cannot be sold). In fact, this distinction was made by Rauschenberg by using a new term, “combine”, a mix between painting and sculpture:


Pilgrim 1950

Is Pilgrim painting? Is Pilgrim sculpture? Is both. I believe the distinction is not as much if it’s two and three dimensional only, but also, it can be “traveled”? Can you see it from different points of view? It’s an sculpture. Can you see part from one point and other parts from different points? Is a combine. Can you see it only from one point? It’s a painting.

The idea in a painting was usually to create the illusion of three dimensions without having it in reality (something Plato hated it), and that idea changed in the XX century. This limits started to disappear until we see the limits are not as clear today. But we could say painting is two dimensional and sculpture is three dimensional but knowing that limits can be broken.

If you now clearly know the difference between painting and sculpture.

The Views From Masters

Leon Battista Alberti wrote that both, painting and sculpture – and with them all the arts – have emerged from drawing. Painting, however, with its possibility of perspective, is able to imitate nature most accurately.

Leonardo da Vinci argued:

Between painting and sculpture I can see no difference other than that of the sculptor performs his work with greater physical fatigue, the painter with greater mental fatigue.

Michelangelo emphasized

I am of the opinion that sculpture is the lantern of painting; between the one and the other discipline is the same difference as between Sun and Moon.

Vasari said:

Sculpture and painting are truly sisters descending from a common father: drawing; born together and at the same time …; bad do those who are trying to separate the one from the other.

You can leave your views about the difference between painting and sculpture it the comment area.

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