Sculpted in 1961 and cast in edition of 3
Height: 60 in, 152 cm
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”. During the 1950s Armitage explored the human form in geometric sculptures characterised by their humorous and witty tone. However, 'Monitor' reveals a turning point in Armitage’s work which became much darker in mood during the 1960s.
Like the other young British sculptors Paolozzi and Turbull, Armitage was attracted to ‘primitive’ and ancient art forms. He made numerous visits to the British Museum, where he was exhilarated by the “pure, direct, simple” art of ancient cultures including the Egyptians. On the surface of 'Monitor' patterned markings refer to tribal artefacts and the impressive central body recalls the standing stones and stelae of ancient cultures, endowing the work with a hieratic stillness.
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 the 1950s military memories, including the “shapes of aircraft” and imagery of tanks entered into works such as this, with their emphasis on solid blocks of bronze with its brutal visual appeal. Like Paolozzi’s post-apocalyptic 'Bronze Man' (1950), Armitage has created a vision of man and machine combined in an image that speaks simultaneously of a pre-historic past and an uncertain human future.
Marlborough Fine Art, London 1962
Mrs Irving Stone, New York
Alan Bowness ed, 'Kenneth Armitage: Life and Work’', The Henry Moore Foundation in association with Lund Humphries, London, 1997, illus. p.51
The work is accompanied by a letter by Kenneth Armitage, dated 20 July 1989