Kenneth Armitage was born in Leeds. He studied sculpture at Leeds College of Art (where Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Lynn Chadwick had preceded him), and at the Slade School of Art. He served in the army during the Second World War, after which he taught at the Bath Academy of Art in Corsham, where he stayed for ten years.
Armitage’s first one-man show was at Gimpel Fils Gallery in London in 1952. In 1958, at the 29th Venice Biennale, he was awarded the prize for the best British sculptor under 45. He travelled extensively throughout the 1960s. In 1964 he was a visiting professor at the University of Caracas in Venezuela, and in 1970 at Boston University. From 1974 to 1979 he taught at the Royal College of Art, London. A major retrospective of his work was held at Art Curial in Paris in 1985, and he also exhibited at 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 Academician in 1994.