Lot 25
  • 25

Kenneth Armitage, R.A.

30,000 - 50,000 GBP
143,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Kenneth Armitage, R.A.
  • Model for Diarchy (small version)
  • bronze
  • height: 30.5cm.; 12in.
  • Conceived in 1957 and cast in 1959, the present work is from the edition of 7.


Sale, Sotheby's London, 22nd June 1994, lot 145, where acquired by David Bowie


Leeds, City Art Gallery, Modern Sculpture, 8th October - 5th November 1958, cat. no.1, illustrated (another cast);
London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Kenneth Armitage, July - August 1958, cat. no.38 (another cast);
Venice, British Council, XXIX Esposizione Biennale d'Arte, 1958, cat. no.85 (another cast);
Norwich, Castle Museum, Kenneth Armitage, 16th December 1972 - 14th January 1973, cat. no.7 (another cast), with Arts Council tour to Bolton Museum and Art Gallery, Bolton, Oldham Art Gallery, Oldham, Kettering Art Gallery, Northamptonshire, Victoria Street Gallery, Nottingham, Portsmouth Museum and Art Gallery, Portsmouth, Plymouth City Art Gallery, Plymouth, Llaneli Museum and Art Gallery, Llaneli, Leeds City Art Gallery, Leeds, and Ferens Art Gallery, Hull.


Tamsyn Woollcombe (ed.), Kenneth Armitage, Life and Work, The Henry Moore Foundation in association with Lund Humphries, London, 1997, cat. no.KA78, p.144.

Catalogue Note

Kenneth Armitage's inclusion in the British Pavilion at the 1952 landmark Venice Biennale was 'really the beginning of my professional life ... I was totally unknown before that, and in those few weeks, I became a known man internationally' (the Artist, quoted in Tamsyn Woollcombe (ed.), Kenneth Armitage Life and Work, The Henry Moore Foundation, 1997, p.40). In 1952, Armitage was the last selected artist for the Biennale, chosen only because Gimpel Fils showed his work to Lilian Somerville, who chaired the selection committee and put him forward. Six years on, at the 1958 Venice Biennale, it was a different story: Armitage was triumphed as one of the leading figures of the new generation of the Post-War sculptors, chosen as the only British sculptor to be represented, given a one-man exhibition alongside Stanley William Hayter and William Scott and winning the David Bright Foundation award for the best sculptor under 45. Model for Diarchy (small version) was exhibited along with the monumental Diarchy which stands at nearly two metres high, now in the collection of Tate, London.
Armitage’s sculpture, however abstracted, has at its heart a basic humanity which is no more so evident than in this work which embodies his distinctive, post-war style of interlinking figures. In 1949, with Two Linked Figures, Armitage first started experimenting with the way in which individual figures, when viewed in a group, became a single mass. As he explained: ‘Joining figures together I found in time I wanted to merge them so completely they formed a new organic unit - a simple mass of whatever shape I liked, containing only that number of heads, limbs or other detail I felt necessary’ (the Artist, quoted in Norbert Lynton, Kenneth Armitage, Methuen, London, 1962, unpaginated). In 1950, the iconic People in the Wind followed and over the decade, a series of interlinked figures emerged. Armitage gradually pared down the detail and flattened the form so that by 1957 when Model for Diarchy was conceived, the bound figures formed a thin, yet textured, central slab from which curiously expressive heads, limbs and ligaments project. Although there is no hint of individual identity, there is a tender dignity and closeness between the seated couple who Armitage said ‘you might call “King and Queen”’ and this regal quality is continued in the eventual title given at the suggestion of Gerald Forty of the British Council – ‘Diarchy’ meaning ‘rule by two’. As Roland Penrose said, Armitage invites us to ‘delight in their vigour and to marvel at the monumental dignity of human architecture’ (ibid., unpaginated).