Catalogue entry

T02296 ATOM PIECE (WORKING MODEL FOR NUCLEAR ENERGY) 1964–5

Inscribed ‘Moore 0/6’ and stamped with foundry mark ‘H. NOACK BERLIN’ on foot
Bronze, 46 1/2×36 × 36 including base (118.2 × 91.5 × 91.5)
Presented by the artist 1978
Exh: Henry Moore, British Council, Salla Dalles, Bucharest, February–March 1966 and tour to Bratislava, Prague and Jerusalem, ending up at the Tel-Aviv Museum, November–December 1966 (31, repr.); Henry Moore, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, October–November 1967 and tour to Charlottestown (Prince Edward Island) and St Johns (Newfoundland), ending up at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottowa, June–September 1968 (22, repr.); Henry Moore Exhibition in Japan, National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, August–October 1969 (60, repr.); Henry Moore Bronzes 1961–1970, Marlborough Gallery, New York, April–May 1970 (14, repr. in colour); Henry Moore-Fem Decennier Skulptur, teckning, grafik 1923–1975, Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Oslo, June–July 1975 and tour to Stockholm and Ålborg (70, repr.); Henry Moore Expo Zürich, Zürcher Forum, Zurich, June–August 1976 (78, repr.); Henry Moore Sculptures et Dessins, Orangerie des Tuileries, Paris, May–August 1977 (106, repr.); Henry Moore 80th Birthday Exhibition, Bradford Art Galleries and Museums, April–June 1978 (13, repr.); The Henry Moore Gift, Tate Gallery, June–August 1978, repr. p.53
Lit: Herbert Read, Henry Moore, 1965, pp.246–8 (repr. pls.237, 8); John Russell, Henry Moore, 1968, pp.194–5 (repr. pl.197); Paul Waldo Schwartz, The Hand and Eye of the Sculptor, 1969, pp.201–6 (repr. pp.196, 7); Alan G. Wilkinson, The Moore Collection in the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 1979, pp.188–90 (original plaster repr. pl.168)
Repr: Giulio Carlo Argan, Henry Moore, Milan, 1971, pl.194 in colour; Alan Bowness, ed., Henry Moore Sculpture 1964–73, 1977, pl.16–18

This work is L.H.525; there is an edition of six bronzes plus the artist's cast, now the Tate's, and the original plaster is in the Moore Collection, Art Gallery of Ontario. The final, twelve-foot high version (‘Nuclear Energy’ 1964–6, L.H. 526), a unique bronze cast, is at the University of Chicago who commissioned it to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the first controlled generation of nuclear power by Enrico Fermi.

The story of the commission is told by Wilkinson, op. cit. Despite its resemblance to an atomic mushroom cloud, the idea for the sculpture came from a maquette (the plaster of which is in the Moore Collection, Art Gallery of Ontario) which Moore had made a few weeks before the commission was proposed; its relationship to the earlier series of ‘Helmet Heads’ is self-evident. ‘In this way’, Moore later told Paul Waldo Schwartz, ‘... you produce better work - through its being a natural development in your own direction - than if you try to stop and think of something special’. (op. cit., p.204). Maquettes as opposed to drawings have almost invariably been the starting-point for Moore's sculptures since the late 1950s. The artist usually produces several maquettes, each small enough to hold in the hand, which can be turned round and worked on, giving him a sense of overall shape, and which, when held up against a blank wall or the sky, he can envisage on a larger scale - life-size or monument-size. Eventually one of these maquettes will be selected for the final enlarged version.

In the case of monumental pieces, Moore will make an intermediary working model such as T02296. In both the working model and its larger version alterations may take place: ‘...always one is prepared and ready to alter and make changes as one carries a thing on.’ (ibid., p.206).

Alan Bowness has drawn attention to the ‘smooth and polished bronze surfaces’ which Moore began to introduce in his sculptures after about 1963, sometimes as a contrast to rougher passages, ‘as in the polished cranium of the “Atom Piece”.’ (op.cit., p.12). Moore sometimes works on the bronze after it returns from the foundry, polishing or using chemicals to give it a patina. On the problems of working in plaster for bronze he has written: ‘If I am not absolutely sure of what is going to happen when the white plaster model is cast into bronze, I paint it to make it look like bronze...’

‘When working in plaster for bronze I need to visualise it as a bronze, because on white plaster the light and shade acts quite differently, throwing back a reflected light on itself and making the forms softer, less powerful ... even weightless.’ (John Hedgecoe and Henry Moore, Henry Moore, 1968, pp.349, 386).

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1978-80: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1981