Kenneth Armitage CBE (1916 – 2002)

Armitage was part of the great renaissance of British sculpture in the post-war years. Born in 1916, Armitage attended Leeds College of Art and went on to win a scholarship at the Slade School of Art. During the second World War he served in the army, but when this ended, he took up the Head of Sculpture position at the Bath Academy of Art, Corsham, Wiltshire. Along with William Scott (who was Head of Painting), Armitage helped it become one of the most innovative art schools in the country. The art of bronze casting had been in severe decline because of the austerity of the post-war years; Armitage was instrumental in setting up a new foundry at Corsham so that work by students and staff could be cast under their own supervision.

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. In 1952, He was chosen to exhibit at the 26th Venice Biennale as part of a group of young British sculptors including Reg Butler, Lynn Chadwick, William Turnbull and Eduardo Paolozzi. His first solo shows were held at Gimpel Fils, London (1952) and the Bertha Schaefer Gallery, New York (1954).



Kenneth Armitage CBE (1916 – 2002), Family Going for a Walk, 1951


Pink Plaster with Bronze Armature
12 in (30.5 cm) long

Collections: With Gimpel Fils,1952; With The Piccadilly Gallery,1975; Dr Jeffery Sherwin

Exhibited: Gimpel Fils Sculpture by Kenneth Armitage 1952 (47); Middlesborough, Institute of Modern Art British Surrealism and other Realities, The Sherwin Collection 2008 p.68(ill); Leeds, City Art Gallery, British Surrealism in context: A Collector’s Eye 2009, p. 82, no.114 (ill)

Family Going for A Walk is one of Armitage’s most celebrated compositions. Between 1950-52 he made 3 versions in differing sizes in bronze and this hand-carved unique plaster. The plaster was included in the artist’s first show at Gimpel Fils in 1952 and like the other pink plasters from the period (see Kenneth Armitage Sculptor-A centenary Celebration,2016 pl.5,6 and 19) probably served as a maquette.

The large size bronze was included in the hugely influential New Aspects of British Sculpture Exhibition at The Venice Biennale in 1952, where Armitage showed alongside Adams, Butler, Chadwick, Meadows, Moore, Paolozzi and Turnbull. The exhibition was a great triumph-Peggy Guggenheim bought an Armitage from the show and the following year Alfred H.Barr bought a bronze of Family Going For a Walk for The New York Museum of Modern Art.

Armitage’s seemingly banal choice of subjects - Figures going for a Walk/Children Playing/People in the Wind etc, is a significant departure from the previous norms for what was considered appropriate subject matter . Armitage described the process as ‘’figures engaged in a simple everyday activity, combined without needless detail into a single whole with a character and movement of its own’’.

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