Kenneth Armitage was part of the great renaissance of British sculpture in the early post-war years; a renaissance which was appreciated by museums and collectors in New York and Europe even more than in Britain.
Born in 1916, Armitage attended Leeds College of Art and won a scholarship to study at the Slade School of Fine Art in London. During World War II, he served in the army. Between 1946 and 1956, he was head of sculpture at the Bath Academy of Art, Corsham, Wiltshire. It was one of the most innovative art schools in Britain at the time with an interesting group of students and staff; William Scott was head of painting. The art of bronze casting had been in severe decline because of the austerity of the post-war years; Armitage was instrumental in a foundry being built at Corsham so that work by students and staff could be cast under their own supervision. He held a Gregory Fellowship in sculpture at Leeds University (1953–5),
Armitage's very early works were carved in stone, but in the post-war years he began casting in bronze, initially using plaster modelled on metal armatures, later using clay. He first attracted international attention at the 26th Venice Biennale in 1952 as one of a group of young British sculptors including Reg Butler, Lynn Chadwick, William Turnbull and Eduardo Paolozzi, whose work demonstrated a new anti-monumental, expressionist approach. His first solo shows were held at Gimpel Fils, London (1952) and the Bertha Schaefer Gallery, New York (1954). By the 1960s he had begun working with wax, resin and aluminium; later he became interested in the combination of drawing and sculpture, experimenting with photographic, drawn and printed images of figures on three-dimensional surfaces.
In the 1980s his subjects shifted from figure to nature and he created a series of sculptures and drawings of oak trees in Richmond Park, London. Armitage has exhibited worldwide and is recognised as one of the major British sculptors of the twentieth century. The New Art Centre represents the Estate of Kenneth Armitage in partnership with Jonathan Clark Fine Art Ltd, London.
A retrospective of Armitage's work is currently on display at Victoria Art Gallery in Bath,
Kenneth Armitage 1916 - 2002: Centenary sculpture exhibition, from 10 September - 27 November 2016.