Kenneth Armitage

Studies for Standing Group


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Not on display

Kenneth Armitage 1916–2002
Graphite on paper mounted on card
Support: 420 × 555 mm
Presented by the Kenneth Armitage Foundation 2012


Studies for Standing Group 1952 is a pencil and wash study on card for a key group of early sculptures in which a group of figures – standing, walking or playing – are linked together by a flat slab or screen. The figures’ protruding or interlaced limbs provide a sense of individuality and movement to what would otherwise be an architectural and static motif. On the sheet of paper there are nineteen individual studies for such a group, arranged on the sheet in an informal grid. Together they reveal how the composition was developed into several different designs. The informal grouping of figures remained an important motif for Armitage, evident in finished sculptures such as People in the Wind 1950 (Tate T00366). By the late 1950s, however, in works such as Diarchy 1957 (Tate T01268), Armitage’s group compositions were more formal and self-contained.

Studies for Standing Group was made while Armitage was Head of Sculpture at the Bath Academy of Art at Corsham Court, a post he held from 1945 to 1956. Drawing was a major part of Armitage’s practice as a sculptor and he routinely kept sketchbooks, making direct studies for sculptures and using drawing as a way of exploring themes that, while close to those resolved in his sculptures, take on their own significance. At the same time, a number of his drawings are individual works in their own right, even when they relate to ideas he was exploring in his sculpture. This is also the case with the drawings Armitage editioned in lithograph (Seated Group 1960, Tate P06014, and Balanced Figure 1960–1, Tate P06015).

Armitage consolidated his reputation when he showed in the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1952 and 1958. At the earlier Biennale, his work appeared as part of the exhibition New Aspects of British Sculpture, which brought to the fore a tendency in British sculpture that was widely identified as the ‘geometry of fear’ and also included artists such as Reg Butler, Lynn Chadwick, Bernard Meadows, Eduardo Paolozzi and William Turnbull. His work remained largely figurative throughout his career, depicting human bodies as fragile but playful forms often made up of elongated limbs and flattened planes. Later in his career, from the 1960s onwards, he incorporated different materials such as plastic into his practice and began to work on a much larger scale. His public commissions included a war memorial for the city of Krefeld, Germany; a sculpture for the British Embassy in Brasilia; and another for the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

Further reading
Kenneth Armitage, exhibition catalogue, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London 1959.
Kenneth Armitage, exhibition ctalogue, Arts Council, London 1972.
Tamsyn Woollcombe (ed.), Kenneth Armitage: Life and Work, London 1997.

Andrew Wilson
April 2012
Arthur Goodwin
December 2018

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