Iri & Toshi Maruki
Maruki Iri and Maruki Toshi, who married in 1941, were professional artists with different backgrounds. The couple arrived in Hiroshima just days after the first atomic bomb had leveled the city to the ground in August 1945. As they searched for surviving family members amid the still-raging fires, both artists felt incapable of portraying the horrors they were witnessing. Three years later, in 1948, the couple began to draw from memory the deeply tragic scenes they had encountered. Partially intended as a protest against the U.S.-imposed censorship of reports about the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, these early drawings eventually led to the “Hiroshima Panels,” a series of fifteen, on which the artists worked for more than three decades.
The second panel, Fire (1950), depicts survivors of the explosion being consumed by flames as they try to escape the ruined city. At the center of the painting, men and women scream in horror while a baby lies helplessly at their feet.
From 1952 onward, the series’ first five panels traveled throughout Japan and then the rest of the world. Although many Japanese viewers felt that the paintings did not do justice to the gruesomeness of the events, the artists explained that the series had been motivated by a desire to discover something humane in this monstrous destruction of life.
Maruki Iri and Maruki Toshi, who married in 1941, were professional artists with different backgrounds. While Maruki Iri studied traditional nihonga painting (monochrome ink painting), Maruki Toshi studied Western art at the Joshibijutsudaigaku no joshi-kō (Joshibi University’s Women’s School of Art and Design). He preferred large-scale paintings, while she favored drawing and illustrations. In 1948 the couple began their lifelong artistic collaboration on the subject of war and human tragedies, such as the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. Maruki Iri, who was from Hiroshima and lost family members in the bombing, arrived on the site only three days after the bombing. His wife followed a few days later. The urge to respond artistically to what they had seen emerged from their inability to forget the haunting memories, and during the next thirty years they created fifteen large folding-screen panels with complex and densely layered images. The Marukis also produced collaborative works on other atrocities of war, such as the Auschwitz concentration camp and the Nanking massacre. Since the 1950s, their “Hiroshima Panels” have been exhibited worldwide and both artists have received honors and prizes, including a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995 for their commitment to nuclear disarmament and world peace.