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Kenneth Armitage was born in Leeds, UK, in 1916. In 1934, he was awarded the Gregory Fellowship, a scholarship to Leeds College of Art where Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Lynn Chadwick had preceded him. However, it was during his period at the Slade school of Art in London that he was to flourish as a sculptor. Between 1939-1945 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, with a focus on figurative pieces, consisting of flat surfaces that were to be perceived frontally. This approach to the sculptural treatment of the human form can be read as a reaction against the three dimensional monumentality of Henry Moore, a reaction characteristic of the work produced by British sculptors during the post-war period. Armitage consequently became interested in investigating the effects of weightlessness and suspension in his work.
Armitage's first one man 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 the best British Sculptor under 45. 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 1974-79 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. Other exhibits include the Seoul Olympics in 1988, the Yorkshire sculpture park in 1996 and the millennium sculpture exhibition in Holland Park, London 2000. He became a Royal Academian in 1994. Kenneth Armitage died in Leeds on January 22, 2002.