Iri Maruki was born on this day, June 20, in 1901 in Hiroshima Province in Japan. He studied traditional nihonga painting, monochrome in ink, and famously collaborated with his artist wife, Toshi Maruki, throughout his life. When Hiroshima was struck by an atomic bomb, Iri’s family was present there. Iri reached the site three days after the bombing to witness sheer devastation, including the death of several of his family members.
Toshi soon joined him and both of them got engaged in rehabilitation work. They stayed in Hiroshima for a month, burning the dead and helping the survivors. Even at the time, the couple is said to have let their artistic instincts function and document what they saw, heard, or discussed, for posterity. Indeed, this transforming experience was to influence their life’s greatest contribution to the faculty of arts in the form of ‘The Hiroshima Panels.’
The Hiroshima Panels are a series of fifteen painted folding panels 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 metres x 7.2 metres. The 15 works were: Ghosts (1950), Fire (1950), Water (1950), Rainbow (1951), Boys and Girls (1951), Atomic Desert (1952), Bamboo Thicket (1954), Rescue (1954), Yaizu (1955), Petition (1955), Mother and Child (1959), Floating Lanterns (1969), Death of American Prisoners of War (1971), Crows (1972), and 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. The Marukis received a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995; Iri died the same year in October.