Copper in Art: A Shining Metal with Many Uses

  • By: Charles Brown
  • Date: May 25, 2023
  • Time to read: 5 min.

Once revered as the “Metal of the Gods”, copper has a rich history dating back to 8000 BCE. It’s used for everything from creating sculptures, paintings to crafting jewelry, thanks to its natural beauty and malleability. Its warm, lustrous quality and earthy red-orange hue lend an undeniable charm to artistic pieces. Let’s dive into the fascinating world of copper in art!

A Brief Introduction to Copper in Art

Copper has long been a favorite material among artists and crafters due to its versatility and durability. Over centuries, it has been shaped, hammered, etched, and molded into various art forms, carrying with it a piece of history and human creativity.

Copper in Painting

Historically, copper was used in place of traditional canvas for paintings. During the Renaissance, artists like El Greco and Rembrandt recognized its potential. Copper-based paints, such as Egyptian Blue, were also widely used in ancient times.

Copper Sculptures

Arguably the most famous copper statue is the Statue of Liberty. Originally a brilliant brown, the oxidation process has turned her into the iconic green figure we know today. This oxidation, called patina, not only transforms the color but also forms a protective barrier, preserving the metal underneath.

Copper Etchings

Copper etchings are a classic form of printmaking. This involves carving designs into copper plates, then transferring the etched image onto paper or fabric. Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs are among the earliest examples of copper etchings.

Copper in Home Decor

Copper is a great addition to your home decor. Its warm tone and shimmering appeal can brighten any corner of your house, from copper figurines to wall art, and even copper light fixtures!

A Deeper Look at Copper Artwork

Let’s dive into more specifics of copper’s multifaceted nature in the art world:

Art FormDescriptionExamples
PaintingCopper provides a smooth, durable surface for painting. Its reflective qualities can enhance the vibrancy of the paint.Renaissance paintings, miniatures
SculptureIts malleability makes it an excellent material for sculptures, ranging from small figurines to life-sized statues.Statue of Liberty, various copper statues around the world
EtchingCopper plates are widely used in printmaking, creating beautiful, intricate designs.Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, modern prints
JewelryCopper’s beauty and easy workability make it popular in jewelry making.Handmade copper earrings, necklaces, bracelets
Home DecorIts warm, lustrous appearance can add an elegant touch to any room.Copper wall hangings, figurines, light fixtures

Advantages of Using Copper in Art

  1. Durability: Copper’s robustness and resistance to corrosion make it an excellent choice for both indoor and outdoor art pieces.
  2. Workability: Copper is easy to shape and mold, giving artists more creative freedom.
  3. Aesthetic Appeal: With its warm hues and lustrous shine, copper can add a touch of elegance to any art piece.
  4. Variety: Available in different grades and colors, copper offers a wide range of choices to suit every artist’s needs.

Tips for Working with Copper

Before you get started, though, it’s important to know a few tips and tricks. Below, we’ve broken down some key points into three crucial areas to consider.

1. Choosing the Right Copper

In the realm of copper, not all sheets are created equal. There’s a range of copper types available, each with their own strengths and suitability for different projects.

  • Color: Copper is known for its warm, reddish-brown color, but variations can occur based on the alloy used. For a more golden hue, go for brass; for a pinkish tone, consider rose gold copper.
  • Thickness: Copper sheets come in different gauges (thicknesses). Thin sheets (higher gauge number) are easier to work with, but they’re also more delicate. Thicker sheets (lower gauge number) are sturdier, but require more effort to shape.
  • Hardness: You can get copper that is ‘dead soft’ or ‘half-hard.’ Dead soft copper is pliable and easy to work with, which is ideal for complex designs. Half-hard copper is more rigid and holds its shape better, perfect for structural pieces.

2. Caring for Copper

Copper is relatively easy to care for, but there are a few key points to remember:

  • Cleaning: Regularly clean your copper pieces using a soft cloth. For more thorough cleaning, use a gentle dish soap and warm water. Remember to dry the piece thoroughly afterward.
  • Preventing Tarnish: Copper naturally oxidizes over time, resulting in a greenish patina. Some artists appreciate this natural aging process, but if you prefer to keep your copper shiny, consider using a sealant or wax.
  • Storage: Store your copper pieces in a cool, dry place, away from high humidity or extreme temperature fluctuations.

3. Working Safely with Copper

Copper is generally safe to work with, but it’s always important to follow safety measures when crafting:

  • Protective Gear: Always wear safety glasses when cutting or hammering copper. Gloves can protect your hands from sharp edges.
  • Ventilation: When heating or soldering copper, make sure you work in a well-ventilated area to avoid inhaling any fumes.
  • Safe Handling: Copper edges can be sharp, especially after being cut. Handle with care to avoid injury.

Let’s now compare some of the properties of copper for a better understanding:

ColorWide range of hues depending on the alloy usedBrass for a golden hue, Rose Gold for a pinkish tone
ThicknessDifferent thicknesses suitable for various projectsThin sheets for intricate designs, thick sheets for structural pieces
HardnessAvailable in ‘dead soft’ or ‘half-hard’ formsDead soft for complex shapes, half-hard for pieces that need to hold their shape

In summary, working with copper can be a rewarding experience if you choose the right type, care for it properly, and follow necessary safety precautions. So, go ahead, let your creativity run wild and create some copper magic!


What is copper artwork called?

Copper artwork doesn’t have a specific name; it’s typically referred to based on the type of artwork, such as “copper sculpture,” “copper etching,” or “copper jewelry.” If you’re referring to the process of creating art with copper, it’s often called “copperwork.”

Why is copper useful for metal sculpting?

Copper is a great choice for metal sculpting because of its malleability – it can be easily bent and shaped without breaking. Its resistance to corrosion also makes it ideal for outdoor sculptures. Plus, the unique color and sheen of copper adds an aesthetic appeal to any artwork.

What famous artists painted on copper?

During the Renaissance period, many artists chose copper as their canvas due to its smoothness and durability. Notable artists who painted on copper include Jan Brueghel the Elder, Adam Elsheimer, and Rembrandt.

What artists worked with copper?

Copper has been a popular medium for many artists throughout history. Besides the aforementioned Renaissance artists, contemporary artists like Nancy Rubins and Richard Serra have also created sculptures using copper and copper alloys.

What is a small copper used by a batik artist?

In batik artistry, a tool called a “tjanting” or “canting” is used. It’s a small copper receptacle with a spout, used to apply hot wax in intricate designs on fabric.

Is copper used in sculptures?

Yes, copper is widely used in sculptures. Its malleability and durability make it an excellent choice for both indoor and outdoor pieces. A famous example is the Statue of Liberty, which is made from copper.

Why is copper used for decoration?

Copper has a unique, warm glow and can develop a beautiful patina over time, which adds a rustic, vintage charm to any space. It can be molded into various shapes and forms, making it a versatile material for decorative items like wall hangings, vases, and ornamental sculptures.

What useful object is made of copper?

Besides artwork, copper is used in a wide range of functional objects. These include electrical wires (due to its excellent conductivity), plumbing pipes, cooking utensils (it’s a good conductor of heat), roofing materials, and even in the production of coins.

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