Kenneth Armitage, Sculptor: A Centenary Celebration


Published to celebrate the centenary of the birth of sculptor Kenneth Armitage (1916-2002).


Kenneth Armitage was born in Leeds in 1916. He studied at Leeds College of Art 1934-37 and at the Slade School on Fine Art, University of London, 1937-39. From 1939 he served in the Army, and was appointed Head of Sculpture at Bath Academy of Art, where he worked until 1956.

page51He exhibited widely throughout his career, in both solo and group exhibitions. His debut on the international stage was at the XXVI Venice Biennale in a group exhibition New Aspects of British Sculpture, 1952. Many exhibitions followed, with his work being acquired by Museums and Galleries in Britain and around the World.


He was Gregory Fellow at the University of Leeds 1953-55. He was awarded the CBE in 1969 and appointed Royal Academician in 1994. Kenneth Armitage died in London on 22 January 2002.


This book gives an account of his work through some of the themes that occupied him in his drawing and sculpture, to which he returned and developed throughout his long and productive career. This overview by Ann Elliott, who worked with Armitage in the late 1990s, is reflected in centenary exhibitions in Bath and Leeds, which the book accompanies.


During the 1950s, Armitage’s work began to be acclaimed internationally, in particular through his presence in the Venice Biennales of 1952 and 1958 and the many shows followed. An essay by art historian Dr Jonathan Wood critically expands on his international reputation, bringing a new dimension to the collective writing on the Kenneth Armitage to the fore for the first time.

The theme of grouped or conjoined figures that set Armitage’s work apart from that of his contemporaries, is famously manifest in People in the Wind 1950, which has been singled out in a chapter written by Jonathan Benington, Art Historian and

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Manager of the Victoria Art Gallery, Bath, which has in its collection sketches, a maquette and the full-scale bronze of the sculpture. Armitage’s link with Bath came from his teaching at Bath Academy of Art from 1946-56.


Kenneth Armitage was a complex, sociable and humorous man and could be irascible at times. Tamsyn Woollcombe, who worked with him in the past, recording his recollections of his exuberant life, has compiled his life story for this book through his words and those of his friends, colleagues, lovers and critics. The piece is beautifully illustrated with photographs taken over the years by both amateur and professional photographers.


In a life devoted to the development of sculpture, Armitage’s contribution to the genre continues today through the charitable legacy that bears his name. The Kenneth Armitage Foundation, established in 2003, works in support of sculptors through providing prizes for sculptors graduating from the art schools with which he was associated; Bath Spa University, formerly Bath Academy of Art; Leeds College of Art and the Slade School of Fine Art, University College, London. The Foundation also supports a Fellowship programme, through which it invites a sculptor to live and work in Armitage’s West London Studio for a period of two years. This section of the book is written by Ann Elliott and features the work of the first six Armitage Fellows, Michael Sandle RA, Tim Shaw RA, Lucy Gunning, Jess Flood-Paddock and David Murphy. Sarah Brown, Curator at Leeds Art Gallery, contributes an interview with Fellow Jess Flood-Paddock, as a case study.


People in the Wind, 1950 (bronze) by Armitage, Kenneth (1916-2002); 65x39x32.5 cm; © Victoria Art Gallery, Bath and North East Somerset Council; Kenneth Armitage Foundation; PERMISSION REQUIRED FOR NON EDITORIAL USAGE; English, in copyright PLEASE NOTE: This image is protected by artist's copyright which needs to be cleared by you. If you require assistance in clearing permission we will be pleased to help you. In addition, we work with the owner of the image to clear permission. If you wish to reproduce this image, please inform us so we can clear permission for you.
People in the Wind, 1950 (bronze) by Armitage, Kenneth (1916-2002); 65x39x32.5 cm; © Victoria Art Gallery, Bath and North East Somerset Council; Kenneth Armitage Foundation


Kenneth Armitage, Sculptor:  A Centenary Celebration is published Sansom & Company, 2016, supported by The Kenneth Armitage Foundation – – and The Henry Moore Foundation





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