Signed with intials and dated
Goauche and ink on paper
29 7/8 x 8 3/8 in, 76 x 21.3cm
Kenneth Armitage stands as one of Britain’s most important post-war sculptors and was one of a group of artists who exhibited at the significant 1952 Venice Biennale show ‘New Aspects...
Kenneth Armitage stands as one of Britain’s most important post-war sculptors and was one of a group of artists who exhibited at the significant 1952 Venice Biennale show ‘New Aspects of British Sculpture’ in the British Pavilion. For Armitage the 1952 show “was really the beginning of my professional life. I was totally unknown before that, and in those few weeks I became a known name internationally”. 'Untitled' (1957) is typical of Armitage's preoccupation with the human figure which began during the 1950s when he started to create humorous sculptures and drawings of small-scale figures, with flattened bodies and long, awkward limbs.
Like Paolozzi, Armitage was attracted to ‘primitive’ and ancient art forms. After one of his frequent visits to the British Museum, Armitage exclaimed, “You cannot imagine the exhilaration of seeing an Egyptian and a Cycladic work! After all the classical decadence of 19th century sculpture… it came like a gush of fresh air – pure, direct, simple.” Like his sculptures, here he has reduced the human form to its most basic components. The figure has been flattened, the torso has been reduced to an elongated oval mass topped by a rounded head and the arms and legs are thin, contorted spindles roughly outlined.
Armitage was also influenced by his war-time experience of military machinery and its industrial production. He had served in the army during World War II and after the disaster of Allied gunners shooting down their own planes at Dunkirk, he ran courses in identifying the shape of enemy tanks and aircraft. During his time as Head of Sculpture at the Bath Academy of Art in Corsham (1946 – 1956) military memories, including the “shapes of aircraft”, entered into his work. The reduction of complex machinery to simple lines can be seen in the strong emphasis on vertical lines in drawings such as this from the 1950s.
Nevertheless, Armitage’s figurative works are filled with an optimistic and witty tone. Whilst studying at the Slade in the late thirties, alongside Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, his tutors encouraged him to keep the “humorous” side of his work. Whilst 'Untitled' speaks simultaneously of a pre-historic past and an uncertain human future, Armitage has exaggerated the human forms to create an absurd and comic figure.
Private Collection, Berlin