Henry Moore OM, CH

Locking Piece

1963–4, cast c.1964–7

Not on display

Henry Moore OM, CH 1898–1986
Object: 2920 × 2800 × 2300 mm
Presented by the artist 1978

Catalogue entry


Locking Piece is made up of two large interconnecting forms stacked one on top of the other. It is one of Henry Moore’s best known public sculptures and has been on display near Tate Britain in Riverside Walk Gardens, Millbank, since 1968, having been gifted to Tate by the artist a year earlier. Tate’s work was the third of three bronze casts of this sculpture produced between 1964 and 1967, and was originally the artist’s copy.
The two large pieces that comprise the bulk of Locking Piece are formed of amorphous protrusions that connect individual parts of the sculpture together or project into space at various angles, although the overall shape is quite compact. A hollow space at the centre of the sculpture is created where the upper piece arches over the concave piece below (fig.1). At one end a third, flatter, disk-like piece is wedged between the facing edges of the two larger pieces like cartilage between two bones. Here, both the upper and lower projections are short, tubular and have straight edges on one side. The lower form also has an irregular surface that slopes at a diagonal, causing the disk-like piece to rest unevenly upon it. The form projecting from the upper piece arches up and over the hollow space into a second, thinner protrusion with a curved face and tall, broad sides. This form projects almost horizontally to overhang the lower piece (fig.2).

At the other end of the sculpture a thin spur from the upper piece appears to hook into a crevice in the lower piece. This cavity is formed by a rounded, twisting mass crossing the outer edge of the sculpture at a diagonal angle and a thin, faceted wedge that rises up from the base (fig.3). From one side, in between the bulkier forms joined by the disk at one end and the interlocking spurs at the other, is a tall, narrow, vertical gorge created by the curvature of the upper and lower pieces.

Origins and facture

Reception and interpretation

Display and acquisition

Alice Correia
August 2013


Donald Hall, Henry Moore: The Life and Work of a Great Sculptor, London 1966, p.10.
Henry Moore cited in Warren Forma, Five British Sculptors (Work and Talk), New York 1964, reprinted in Philip James (ed.), Henry Moore on Sculpture, London 1966, p.144.
‘I was playing with two pebbles ... and somehow or other they got locked together and I couldn’t get them undone and I wondered how they got into position and it was like a clenched fist ... Anyhow, eventually I did get it to [separate]; by turning and lifting, one piece came off the other. This gave one the idea of making two forms which would do that and later I called it “Locking Piece” because they lock together’. Henry Moore cited in Alan Wilkinson (ed.), Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, Aldershot 2002, p.291.
Henry Moore cited in John Hedgecoe (ed.), Henry Moore, London 1968, p.456.
Albert Elsen, ‘Henry Moore’s Reflections on Sculpture’, Art Journal, vol.26, no.4, summer 1967, p.356.
Henry Moore cited in ibid., p.356.
Hall 1966, pp.13–14.
Ibid., p.14.
Ibid., p.10. It is probable that other assistants helped in the construction of Locking Piece, but their names are unrecorded; other assistants working for Moore in 1962–4 included Geoffrey Greetham, Robert Holding, Derek Howarth, Roland Piché, Clive Sheppard, Hylton Stockwell and Yardini Yeheskiel.
Henry Moore cited in Donald Hall, ‘Henry Moore: An Interview by Donald Hall’, Horizon, November 1960, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.226.
Hall 1966, p.14.
Ibid., pp.15–16.
Isaac Witkin cited in ibid., p.10.
Ibid., p.16.
Sand casting is a technique whereby a model is buried in sand to create a mould from which the bronze can be cast. Sand casting is quicker and less labour intensive than lost wax casting but is generally less suitable for reproducing very intricate shapes or surface details.
Alan Bowness (ed.), Henry Moore. Volume 4: Complete Sculpture 1964–73, London 1977, p.9.
Henry Moore, ‘Statement for Unit One’, in Herbert Read (ed.), Unit One: The Modern Movement in English Architecture, Painting and Sculpture, London 1934, pp.29–30, cited in Wilkinson 2002, pp.192–3.
Albert Elsen, ‘The New Freedom of Henry Moore’, Art International, vol.11, no.7, September 1967, p.42.
See Herbert Read, Henry Moore: A Study of his Life and Work, London 1965, p.246, and Robert Melville, Henry Moore: Sculpture and Drawings 1921–69, London 1970, p.261.
William Packer, ‘Locking Piece’, in David Mitchinson (ed.), Celebrating Moore: Works from the Collection of the Henry Moore Foundation, London 2006, p.267.
Moore cited in Elsen, ‘Henry Moore’s Reflections on Sculpture’, 1967, p.354.
Moore cited in Hedgecoe 1968, p.455.
Henry Moore cited in David Finn, Henry Moore: Sculpture and Environment, New York 1977, p.220.
John Russell, Henry Moore, 1968, 2nd edn, London 1973, p.231, and Bowness 1977, p.7.
Theo Crosby, ‘Design and Purpose in World Exhibitions’, Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, vol.116, no.5139, February 1968, p.247.
Iain A. Boal, ‘Ground Zero: Henry Moore’s Atom Piece at the University of Chicago’, in Jane Beckett and Fiona Russell (eds.), Henry Moore: Critical Essays, Aldershot 2003, p.224.
Norman Reid, memorandum of visit to Henry Moore, 16 December 1968, Tate Public Records TG 4/6/10/2.
Moore cited Finn 1977, p.220.
Derek Pullen, ‘Damage Report: T02293 Locking Piece’, 26 January 1990, Tate Conservation File, T02293.
In 2013 this cast was sold to a private collector.
Hall 1966, p.23.
Norman Reid, letter to Anne Mundy, 3 July 1964, Tate Public Records TG 20/6/10.

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