Atom Piece (Working Model for Nuclear Energy)
1964–5, cast 1965
1182 x 915 x 915 mm
Inscribed ‘Moore 0/6’ and stamped with foundry mark ‘H. NOACK BERLIN’ on foot
Presented by the artist 1978
Artist’s copy aside from edition of 6
Technique and condition
The maximum size of a cast piece of bronze is determined by the size of the crucible used at the foundry, for bronze must be cast in a single pour. To cast this sculpture the plaster original had to be cut into two pieces, which were cast separately and subsequently welded together. A horizontal weld line approximately halfway up the sculpture testifies to this process (fig.3). This seam was polished where it traverses the dome, whereas on the lower surfaces it was integrated with the texture of the surrounding bronze using punches and chisels.
The surface of the bronze was artificially patinated, which, as well as colouring the sculpture, also served to disguise any flaws, welds or repairs in the cast. The process required chemical solutions to be applied to the surface of the bronze, triggering a reaction that produced coloured compounds. A thin, transparent brown patina was applied over the entire surface of Atom Piece (Working Model for Nuclear Energy), graded to deeper shades towards the lower, more heavily textured areas of the sculpture (fig.4). These brown shades are often achieved using solutions of potassium or ammonium polysulphide, applied at varying concentrations and temperatures to affect the depth of colour. Some of the interior and concave surfaces on the lower part of the sculpture have a warm, reddish colour that was likely produced by stippling ferric nitrate solution onto the bronze while it was heated with a blowtorch.
A square outline can be seen on one side of the domed surface (fig.5). This appears to be a seam line created by welding a patch of metal to the cast, probably to repair a fault. The composition of the alloy used to make the seam was slightly different to the rest of the bronze and, as a result, the line has become more prominent over time having reacted with the patina and the atmosphere differently. There are green run lines on the inner surfaces of the sculpture that were probably caused by rain water during sustained periods of outdoor display.
How to citeLyndsey Morgan, 'Technique and Condition', October 2011, in Alice Correia, ‘Atom Piece (Working Model for Nuclear Energy) 1964–5, cast 1965 by Henry Moore OM, CH’, catalogue entry, September 2013, in Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity, Tate Research Publication, 2015, https://www
The domed upper part of the sculpture has a highly polished outer surface (fig.4). Elliptical depressions and curves have been cut into the lower edge of the dome, a thin section of which curls inward to form its underside. From certain angles the position and shape of these indentations may be seen to resemble eyes, while a recessed spiral hollow adjacent to the widest leg also recalls the shape of an ear (fig.5).
From plaster to bronze
Titling Nuclear Energy and exhibiting Atom Piece
Sources and symbolism
The lower half of the sculpture has something architectural about it, like the arches of a cathedral or entrances leading into a protective interior, suggesting the valuable and helpful side the splitting of the atom could have for mankind. And there are many other symbolic interpretations to be found in it.34
The Henry Moore Gift
How to cite
Alice Correia, ‘Atom Piece (Working Model for Nuclear Energy) 1964–5, cast 1965 by Henry Moore OM, CH’, catalogue entry, September 2013, in Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity, Tate Research Publication, 2015, https://www