He first attracted international attention as one of a group of young British sculptors, including Reg Butler, Lynn Chadwick, Eduardo Paolozzi and William Turnbull, who showed at the 26th Venice Biennale in 1952 and whose work signalled a new, anti-monumental, approach. Armitage's preoccupation was with the human figure, combined with an interest in vertical and horizontal structure. He created small-scale figures, full of droll humour, with broad, flattened bodies, pinheads and sprouting, stick-like limbs. The hieratic, frieze-like aspect of his work was also developed in such sculptures as Diarchy
(bronze, 1.71×1.09×1.0 m, 1957; London, Tate). In 1955–7 he changed to working in clay, and in the 1960s he employed wax, and aluminium, and his pieces became darker in mood and more . In the late 1960s and early 1970s he made a series of disembodied limbs and ‘furniture-figures'. He also experimented with drawn, and photographic figural images on three-dimensional surfaces (e.g. Folding Screen
, 1972; U. Nottingham A.G.). Between 1975 and 1986 he moved from the figure to nature in his series of sculptures and of oak trees in Richmond Park, London.
N. Lynton: Kenneth Armitage (London, 1962)
C. Spencer: Kenneth Armitage (London, 1973)
British Sculpture in the Twentieth Century (exh. cat., ed. S. Nairne and N. Serota; London, Whitechapel A.G., 1981–2), pp. 124–33, 248