The Hiroshima panels are a series of fifteen painted folding panels by the collaborative husband and wife artists Maruki Iri and Maruki Toshi. They were completed over a span of thirty-two years (1950-1982). The Panels depict the consequences of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as other nuclear disasters of the 20th century. Each panel stands 1.8 meters x 7.2 meters.
The paintings depict people wrenched by the violence and chaos of the atomic bombing; some wandering aimlessly, their bodies charred, while others are still being consumed by atomic fire. Dying lovers embrace and mothers cradling their dead children. Each painting portrays the inhumanity, brutality, and hopelessness of war, and the cruelty of bombing civilians. The people depicted in the paintings are not only Japanese citizens but also Korean residents and American POWs who suffered or died in the atomic bombings as well.
The Marukis tried to represent all those affected so as to make their cause an international one and above that one of universal importance to all human beings. The use of traditional Japanese black and white ink drawings, sumi-e, contrasted with the red of atomic fire produce an effect that is strikingly anti-war and anti-nuclear.
The 15 Hiroshima Panels:
- I Ghosts (幽霊, Yūrei, 1950)
- II Fire (火, Hi, 1950)
- III Water (水, Mizu, 1950)
- IV Rainbow (虹, Niji, 1951)
- V Boys and Girls (少年少女, Shōnen shōjo, 1951)
- VI Atomic Desert (原子野, Genshi-no, 1952)
- VII Bamboo Thicket (竹やぶ, Takeyabu, 1954)
- VIII Rescue (救出, Kyūshutsu, 1954)
- IX Yaizu (焼津, Yaizu, 1955)
- X Petition (暑名, Shomei, 1955)
- XI Mother and Child (母子像, Boshi-zō, 1959)
- XII Floating Lanterns (とうろう流し, ''Tōrō nagashi, 1969)
- XIII Death of American Prisoners of War (米兵捕虜の死, Beihei-horyo no shi, 1971)
- XIV Crows (からす, Karasu, 1972)
- XV Nagasaki (長崎, Nagasaki, 1982)
Short prose-like poems written by the artists to further explain the subject of their visual work also accompany each painting.
In 1967, the Maruki Gallery for the Hiroshima Panels, was established in Higashi-Matsuyama, Saitama, Japan, as a permanent home for The Hiroshima Panels. The fifteenth panel, Nagasaki, is on permanent display at the Nagasaki International Cultural Hall. Also available for view at the Maruki Gallery are the Marukis' further collaborative paintings on Auschwitz, the Nanking massacre, the battle of Okinawa, Minamata, and their summary collaborative painting entitled Hell.
It was for these monumental works, along with their continued peace education efforts that the Marukis received a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995. The Hiroshima Panels have also been the subject of the 1987 Academy Award nominated documentary Hellfire: A Journey from Hiroshima. The Japanese composer Masao Ohki composed in 1953 his 5th Symphony. The first six panels that have been painted until then were turned into six movements.
Several of the Hiroshima Panels with Artists' Description
It was a procession of ghosts in an instant all clothing burned off of hands, faces. Breasts swelled.
The purple blisters on the victims' soon burst and peeled off, hanging down like pieces of rags.
With hands lifted half up, the victims appeared as ghosts in procession. Dragging their ragged skin behind them exhausted, they fell down moaning in heaps and died, one after another.
At center of explosion, the temperature reached six thousand degrees. On a human shadow remaind on a stone step nearby. Could a body vaporize? Did it blow away? There is no one to tell what it was like at that moment. There were only burned, charred faces, no one could tell one from another . Voices weakened, they told their names but even they remained unrecognized. An infant with an innocent face and delicate skin lay asleep. Was it saved in it's mother's tender breast? Oh,that even this one babe will awake to rise up again!
"PIKA,!" the blue-white light of the flash
the heat wave--
Never in heaven or on earth had humankind experienced this. In an instant everything burst into flames and even the ruins were ablaze. The dead silence of a vast desert broke. Some felt senseless under fallen debris, others desperately tried digging out. Everything was consumed by a crimson light. Glass shards pierced bellies, arms and legs were lost. People fell and were taken by the fire.
"Hurry! Get out,quick!" someone shouted.
"I can't!" came the mother's cry from beneath the heavy beams.
"Then, the child!" the other shouted.
"You must escape yourself! My child will be die with me. She would only be lost in the streets."
Helping hands were pushed away. And mother and child were devoured by a swift vermillion flame.
The blaze was unceasing. People were searching for relatives and taking them home but on the way found them dying. Food was being rationed out to the long line. There a young woman clutching hardtack for her family fell over and died. Sister's mother- and father-in-law had hundreds of glass fragments piercing their whole bodies. Their ankles were swollen as thick as thighs. From our house we put them on a cart and pulled it to their oldest son's home in Kaita walking by the center of the blast.
It rained softly all day that day. It rained often in Hiroshima after the Bomb. It was midsummer but it seemed cold every day.
In tears she told us. She said "Mother,forgive me!", as she left her and ran.
Husband left wife, wife left husband, parent left child, child left parent.
Rescue--it came later.
It was 1945. For the first time in human history,the Atomic Bomb was dropped over Hiroshima. And dropped once more over Nagasaki. Then over Bikini Atoll--another first the Hydrogen Bomb was dropped. There a fishing boat called Lucky Dragon sailed. The death ashes fell all around, and half a year later Aikichi Kuboyama died in his home port of Yaizu.
Once, twice, three times-- Japanese fell victim to the Nuclear Age.
And not only Japanese. Micronesians on nearby atolls all and all dusted in radioactive ash their reef utterly poisoned. Bikinians, assured their beloved homeland was safe to return to overjoyed! Then struck down by radiation disease, cancer, leukemia. And suffer still. Bikini and Yaizu! Partners by default!
Stop the Atomic Bomb! Stop the Hydrogen Bomb! Stop War!
In Tokyo's Suginami Ward, a petition begun by women spread all over Japan. Children, mothers, fathers, old people, workers of all kinds--everyone signed. For the first time, the people of Japan asserted themselves with a silent cry.
A voice that echoed throughout the land. A call for peace.
Mother and Child
Under the shattered structures amidst the excruciating flames. Parent left child, child left parent, husband left wife, wife left husband. Nowhere to escape to. Figures fleeing in all directions. This was the Atomic Bomb. In the midst of this, how eerie--mothers' loving arms shielding their babies from death, dying themselves. There were oh! so many.
On August sixth every year, the seven rivers of Hiroshima are filled with lanterns. Painted with the names of fathers, mothers, and sisters, they float on their way to the sea. Almost there, pushed back flame snuffed out. Darkly coming back in pieces. Tossed by ocean waves. That time, years past, these same rivers were filled. With the corpses of those fathers, mothers and sisters.
The target of Kokura covered by clouds, two B-29s on to Nagasaki. Chased by more clouds. Mitsubishi Steelworks skirting the town for the new target. Drop it! Just above Uragami Cathedral it exploded. Instantaneously annihilating the priests and believers and all. The cathedral at the center. Endless concentric halo-like circles of dead human beings. In Nagasaki it was a plutonium bomb. Stronger than the one in Hiroshima. Nagasaki in ruins, 140,000 killed. One more Atomic Bomb.
Iri Maruki (1901-1995) and Toshi Maruki (1912-2000)
We lost our uncle to the Atomic Bomb and our two young nieces were killed; our younger sister suffered burns and our father died after six months; many friends perished.
Iri left Tokyo for Hiroshima on the first train from Tokyo, three days after the Bomb was dropped. Toshi followed a few days later.
Two kilometers from the center of the explosion, the family house was still standing. But the roof and roof tiles were mostly gone, windows had been blown out, and even the pans, dishes, and chopsticks had been blasted out of their places in the kitchen. In what was left of the burned structure, rescued bomb victims were gathered together and lay on the floor from wall to wall until it was full.
We carried the injured, cremated the dead, searched for food, and found scorched sheets of tin to patch the roof. With the stench of death and the flies and the maggots all around us, we wandered about in the same manner as those who had experienced the Bomb.
In the biginning of September, back in Tokyo, we heard for certain that the war had ended. In Hiroshima, we hadn't known. It had never entered our minds--at that time, we couldn't think beyond what we were seeing and doing. Three years passed before we began to paint what we had seen. We began to paint our own nude bodies to bring back the images of that time, and others come to pose for us because we were painting the Atomic Bomb.
We thought about a 17-year-old girl having had a 17-year life span, and 3-year-old child having had a life of three years. Nine hundreds sketches were merged together to create the first paintings. We thought we ha painted a tremendous number of people, but there were 260,000 people who died in Hiroshima. As we prayed for the blessing of the dead with a fervent hope that it never happen again, we realized that even if we sketched and painted all of our lives, we couldn't never paint them all.
One Atomic Bomb in one instant caused the deaths of more people than we could ever portray. Long-lasting radioactivity and radiation sickness are causing people to suffer and die even now. This was not a natural disaster. As we painted, through our paintings..these thought came to run through and through our mind.
Iri Maruki, Toshi Maruki
Source: Maruki Gallery for the Hiroshima Panels: http://www.aya.or.jp/~marukimsn/english/indexE.htm.