Seated figure with Arms Raised (small version), 1957
Stamped with foundry mark 'Cire perdue C. Valsuani'
Bronze. Cast at La Fonderie Valsuani, Paris in an edition of 3.
Height 13 in, 33 cm
The 1952 Venice Biennale propelled Armitage onto the world stage. He described how 'I was really at the beginning of my professional life. I was totally unknown before that, and...
The 1952 Venice Biennale propelled Armitage onto the world stage. He described how "I was really at the beginning of my professional life. I was totally unknown before that, and in those few weeks I became a known name internationally". The exhibition entitled New Aspects of British Sculpture placed Armitage’s work alongside that of Reg Butler, Lynn Chadwick, William Turnbull, Eduardo Paolozzi and fellow Yorkshireman, the then fully established Henry Moore.
The year after creating 'Seated Figure with Arms Raised' Armitage was part of the British Pavillion’s exhibition at the 1958 Venice Biennale. The show was both a critical and commercial success, with 'Family Going for Walk' being sold to MoMA in New York and Armitage being awarded the first ever David E. Bright Foundation Prize for an artist under 45. Figures with outstretched limbs were an integral part of his submission for the Biennale. Armitage produced some of his greatest works during the 1950s which institutions and collectors “sparred” to acquire.
Although part of the so-called "Geometry of Fear" school, Armitage’s figurative works are both tragic and comical. Whilst studying at the Slade in the late thirties his tutors encouraged him to keep the "humorous" side of his work. This humour lay in stark contrast to the utopian ideals and formal seriousness of Moore’s work.
Like many of his small scale works of the 1950s the body of 'Seated Figure with Arms Raised' is bold and dense. The playful yet exaggerated outstretched arms and legs exacerbate the physicality of the work and reduction of the body to its basic limbs.
The work reveals Armitage’s enduring fascination with the irreverence of the human figure. Herbert Read saw these figures as inspired by the simple and ‘primitive’ art forms Armitage had seen at the British Museum – "the stretched agony of human relationships" but most hailed the work as humane and reassuring. Armitage himself said, "I find most satisfying work which derives from careful study and preparation but which is fashioned in an attitude of pleasure and playfulness".
Private Collection, Italy
James Scott, The Sculpture of Kenneth Armitage, London, 2016, illus. p.112 no.73