The basis of classicism was ancient art. The sculpture of the era of classicism was designed to decorate the interior of the house, to serve as an ideal model, an impeccable delight for the eye. At the same time, the content of many sculptures is civilian, patriotic inherent in the entire direction of classicism.
The subjects of the sculpture largely repeat Greek and Roman mythology, there are frank replicas of the works of ancient masters, among which the works of the Hellenistic era prevail.
In the works of sculptors, especially those intended for public display, military valor, courage and devotion to duty are praised.
Allegorical sculptures were also popular (which brings together in content another direction in art - Baroque).
The ancient tradition assumed the image of nudity, and morality of the 18th century did not allow it. The way out of this contradiction was found simple: the commanders and statesmen were depicted by sculptors as ancient gods in full combat gear. Female sculptures also dressed in tunics. Later statesmen were portrayed in Roman togas.
Tombstones in the form of sculptures became widespread. This was due to the fact that public cemeteries began to form near large cities. Tombstones are distinguished by static, emotional scarcity. As a sample, the masters choose the best sculptures of the archaic era.
The fashion for classicism was pan-European, so many Russian sculptors created in this area.
Among the most famous masters of classicism in sculpture is the Italian sculptor Antonio Canova. During his life, he was compared with ancient sculptors. His works were distinguished by extraordinary grace, fluidity of forms and decorativeness.
Canova's works adorn the Louvre, the Hermitage, as well as the squares of several Italian cities. The most famous sculptures: Napoleon Bonaparte (Pinacoteca Brera in Milan), Cupid and Psyche (Louvre Museum), Three Graces (Hermitage).
Despite fame and an impeccable artistic reputation, critics accused the sculptor of abstract images and dominating decorativeness.
Napoleon's sculpture is still controversial. Some consider her an example of exact adherence to ancient traditions - the emperor is depicted in the form of Zeus with a miniature goddess Nika in the palm of his hand. Others note the excessive beauty of the statue, the violation of the tradition of the proportions of the male body for the sake of a spectacular pose and exaggerated sobriety of the image.
Among the Russian sculptors of classicism, one of the most famous was Fedot Shubin, whose sculptural portraits won fame not only in Russia but throughout Europe. The most famous works: portraits of Potemkin and Rumyantsev, Orlov and Golitsyn. Many also know the appearance of the great Lomonosov from the Shubin portrait. The master also turned to the images of monarchs: he created a portrait of Catherine the Great and Paul the First.
Undoubtedly, the works of Ivan Martos, whose works (Minin and Pozharsky and Duke Richelieu) are known to everyone, belong to the style of classicism.
Late classicism acquires some coldness of images, the decorative component and sentimentalism increase. Among the masters of the late era, undoubted leadership belongs to Bertel Thorvaldsen, a sculptor from Denmark. His works - a monument to Copernicus (Warsaw), statues of the apostles (Copenhagen Cathedral), Ganymede feeding the eagle (Torvaldsen Museum, Copenhagen) - undoubtedly talented and highly artistic works. The master entered the history of art as one of the most prolific sculptors. Orders came to him from all over the Old World. But upon careful examination, you can see that most of his works - monuments, tombstones, portraits - are executed very superficially.
Thoroughly technical from a technical point of view, the works of Thorvaldsen are inherently shallow, devoid of the ideological basis of classicism. The master perfectly controlled the form, but the content of his work leaves no impression.
Having given way to other trends in art, classicism has returned more than once and has become fashionable, although in a slightly modified form.