Artistry and Plaster

Incomplete without the other
Brianna Petersen
March 29, 2024
7 min

Lime, sand, cement, and water are found on every continent. Humans have been building and creating with plaster for centuries. The application of this material spans various domains.


Plaster’s affordability as a building material, malleability in application and durability when hardened gives it immense value. The forgiving nature and access to materials allows people from all walks of life to learn the application. The durability and permanence gives peace of mind that proper care means creating a legacy. Tradespeople and artists alike have used the pliable nature to their advantage to create intricate designs on walls such as bas relief sculpture or on the ceiling as an ornate cornice.


Sculptors value the physical and chemical properties of plaster as well. Whether that is molds for detailed forms before casting a bronze figure or replicating the movements of the air, water, and earth on canvas. The versatility and quick drying time give endless possibilities.

Our resident artist Rebecca Gilling, can lead you through creating your own relief sculpture using lime and gypsum plaster.

Photo by Kelsey Thrush

Individuals who gained notoriety for their mastery of plaster in the art world

Auguste Rodin - Plaster was preliminary to his bronze sculptures
Camille Claudel - Protegee of Rodin who specialized in emotive sculptures.
Donatello - Renaissance sculptor from Florence Italy.
On display at the Gemäldegalerie Berlin for the Donatello exhibition in 2022. MenkinAlRire
Giambologna - Flemish sculptor who worked in Italy. Created models in plaster for larger bronze sculptures.
Hercules and Nessus by Giambologna 1599 at the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence Italy by Mary Harrsch
Antonio Canova - Italian Neoclassical sculptor who exemplified the ideals of beauty and harmony at that time
Photo credit attributed to Artgate Fondazione Cariplo
Louise Bourgeois - Contemporary sculptor who made plaster installations exploring themes of memory, trauma, and the human body.
Photo credit Jeangagnon
Alberto Giacometti - Associated mainly with bronze sculptures but used plaster to capture raw and expressive energy.
Photo credit Alberto Giacometti in his Montparnasse studio in Paris, photographed by his wife Annette. Giacometti Foundation Archives © Alberto Giacometti Estate
Edgar Degas - Known mostly for paintings and drawings but also created sculptures of dancers to highlight their movement and form.
photo credit Musée d'Orsay, Paris