Kenneth Armitage was born in Leeds, United Kingdom, in 1916. In 1934, he was awarded the Gregory Fellowship, a scholarship to Leeds College of Art where artists Lynn Chadwick, Barbara Hepworth, and Henry Moore had preceded him. However, it was during his period at the Slade school of Art in London that he flourished as a sculptor. Between 1939 and 1945 Armitage served in the army. At the end of the war, he became a sculpture teacher at Bath Academy of Art in Corsham, where he stayed for ten years. It was during this period that he developed his mature style, focused mainly on figurative works consisting of flat surfaces that should be observed frontally. His approach to the sculptural treatment of the human form can be read as a reaction against the three-dimensional monumentality of Henry Moore's work, a reaction characteristic of the work produced by British sculptors during the postwar period. Armitage consequently became interested in investigating the effects of weightlessness and suspension in his work.

Armitage's first solo show was held at the Gimpel Fils Gallery in London in 1952. The significance of his contribution to British sculpture was confirmed in 1958 at the 29th Venice Biennale, where he was awarded the prize for best British Sculptor aged under forty-five. His international success was confirmed in 1956 when he was awarded first prize in a competition for a war memorial for the town of Kretfield in Germany.

He traveled extensively throughout the 1960's. In 1964, he was a visiting professor at the University of Caracas, Venezuela, and in 1970 at Boston University, Massachusetts. From 1974 to 1979 he was a visiting tutor at the Royal College of Art, London. A major retrospective of his work was held at the Art Curial in Paris in 1985. His work was also exhibited at the Seoul Olympics in 1988, in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in 1996, and at the Millennium Sculpture Exhibition in Holland Park, London, in 2000. He became a Royal Academician in 1994. Kenneth Armitage died in London on January 22, 2002.