Modern & Post-War British Art
Modern & Post-War British Art
KENNETH ARMITAGE, R.A.
LINKED FIGURES (LARGE VERSION)
signed, numbered 6/6 and stamped with foundry mark on the base
height (including Artist's base): 100cm.; 39½ in.
Conceived in 1949/51 and cast in 1960, the present work is number 6 from the edition of 6.
Artcurial, Paris, where acquired by Jack and Ruth Wexler, July 1985
Gifted by the above to the present owners in 1995
Norbert Lynton, Kenneth Armitage, Methuen, London, 1962, illustrated (another cast);
Tamsyn Woollcombe (ed.), Kenneth Armitage Life and Work, The Henry Moore Foundation in association with Lund Humphries Publishers, London, 1997, cat. no.KA13, illustrated p.27;
James Scott, The Sculpture of Kenneth Armitage, Lund Humphries, London, 2016, cat. no.5, illustrated p.90 (another cast).
London, Whitechapel Gallery, Kenneth Armitage, July - August 1959, cat. no.2 (plaster cast);
Paris, Artcurial, English Contrasts Peintres et Sculpteurs Anglais 1950-1960, September - November 1984, illustrated (another cast);
Paris, Artcurial, Kenneth Armitage, Sculptures et Dessins, 1948-1984, May - July 1985, ex. cat. (this cast).
Figuring the Human: Two Important Early Works by Kenneth Armitage
At the heart of Kenneth Armitage’s sculptural practice was an abiding dedication to the human form and the human condition. Armitage came of age, along with the rest of the so-called ‘Geometry of Fear’ generation of sculptors, during World War II. Enrolled into the Royal Artillery, spotting enemy aircraft, his wartime experiences contrasted with the comparative idyll of life at the Corsham School of Art, where he worked alongside William Scott and James Tower. Poised between humour and angst, Armitage’s sculptures embody what it means to be human, to exist alone and to seek companionship, even whilst struggling against the threat of nuclear Armageddon. Armitage was propelled to fame after his inclusion in the infamous Venice Biennale exhibition of young British sculptors in 1952 and these two works were conceived either side of this seminal moment – Armitage later commented that it 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' (Kenneth Armitage, quoted in Tamsyn Woollcombe (ed.), Kenneth Armitage Life and Work, The Henry Moore Foundation, 1997, p.40).
Linked Figures (large version) was Armitage’s first foray at the end of the 1940s into experimenting with pulling individual figures together in such a way that they become one mass: ‘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’ (Kenneth Armitage, quoted in Norbert Lynton, Kenneth Armitage, Methuen, London, 1962, unpaginated). Standing tall together, totally intertwined, central arms seemingly indistinguishable and legs overlapping, the two figures are an impenetrable unit, bound and united, humanity unified. Under a decade later, Figure Lying on its Side (version 5) presents a different vision, of solitude and fragility. There is a brittle strength to the figure, its body a shield-like mass from which elongated limbs protrude, ‘reduced almost to sticks’ (Kenneth Armitage, quoted in ibid, p.44). Both works, from an Important American Collection, were initially acquired from Armitage’s Artcurial exhibition in Paris. Armitage’s innate sensitivity to the human figure and the human psyche are absolutely apparent. As Antony Gormley wrote in the introduction to James Scott’s monograph on Armitage: ‘Armitage seems to have an instinctive understanding of sculpture’s ability to be a thing in the world and yet allude to the most fugitive aspects of human experience, the most relevant being that of our relationship to space and the elements. In this short period, he set an agenda for sculpture that remains rich and open.’ (Antony Gormley (Foreword), James Scott (ed.), The Sculpture of Kenneth Armitage, Lund Humphries, London, 2016, p.7).