Kenneth Armitage

Seated Woman with Square Head (Version B)


Not on display

Kenneth Armitage 1916–2002
Object: 600 × 251 × 311 mm
Transferred from the Victoria & Albert Museum 1983

Display caption

This is the last of four sculptures of seated women made by Armitage during 1954 and 1955. This particular version has a vertical line cut into the torso of the figure which emphasises its geometric, block-like appearance. Armitage was one of a number of younger sculptors, including for example Reg Butler, William Turnbull and Lynn Chadwick, who after the Second World War rejected the traditional idea of sculpture as monumental and harmonious. When shown at the Venice Biennale in 1952, Herbert Read dubbed their spiky, fragmented forms the 'geometry of fear'. Their sculptures often suggested aggressive creatures, half human, half animal.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry


Bronze 23 1/2 × 10 × 12 1/4 (600 × 250 × 310)
Inscribed ‘Susse Fondeur Paris’ at back of base
Transferred from the Victoria and Albert Museum 1983
Prov: Purchased from the artist by Department of Circulation, Victoria and Albert Museum 1960 (Circ. 182–1960)
Exh: ?Recent Sculpture by Kenneth Armitage, Gimpel Fils, October–November 1957 (12, repr., unspecified cast); ? 29 Biennale Internazionale d'Arte, Venice, June–October 1958 (71, unspecified cast); ? 5e Biennale voor Beeldhouwkunst Middelheimpark, Antwerp, May–September 1959 (unspecified cast); ? 11 Documenta, Kassel, July–October 1959 (repr., unspecified cast);? A retrospective exhibition of sculpture and drawings based on the XXIX Venice Biennale of 1958, initially organised by the British Council, Whitechapel Art Gallery, July–August 1959 (24, repr., unspecified cast)
Lit: Roland Penrose, Kenneth Armitage, 1960, p.12 and pl.16; Norbert Lynton, Kenneth Armitage, 1962, n.p.

The sculpture was modelled in clay in London, shortly after Armitage's return there from Leeds, where he had been Gregory Fellow (1953–5). It was the last of a group of four small sculptures of seated women:

1. ‘Seated Figure’ 1954. Modelled at Leeds and cast in Corsham in June 1954. 17 1/2" high, with both hands on knees and elbows bent inwards to touch.

2. ‘Seated Woman with Square Head’ 1954. Modelled at Leeds and cast in Corsham in November 1954. 14" high, and similar to the Tate Gallery bronze but with long legs extended forward from the body.

Both these bronzes are unique, and were bought by Joseph Hirshhorn soon after they were cast and now belong to the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington.

The Tate Gallery figure was made in two versions, the later of which was more extreme and was cast first:

3. ‘Seated Woman with Square Head’ 1955 (Version A). 24" high, cast for the first time in 1984. This differs from T03708 chiefly in the position of the head, which is off centre towards the figure's left and tilted towards her right. It has a horizontal ridge on the head, representing eyes.

4. The Tate work (Version B) was made immediately after 3. These bronzes were cast by Susse in Paris in 1957 in an edition of six, one of which still belongs to the artist. The vertical line cut into the torso of the figure emphasises its more geometric and block-like appearance, in contrast to the less formal earlier version.

The artist possesses at least one drawing made in preparation for numbers 3 and 4, a chalk sketch of two views of the same figure, dated 1954.

The monumental character of the Tate Gallery bronze looks forward to the five foot high bronze of two seated figures ‘Diarchy’ of 1957 (T01268).

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986



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