Hiroshima Panels sent from Maruki Gallery, Saitama, for restoration expected to be completed in 2023

by Masatoshi Kuwabara, Staff Writer

On December 16, a painting by the late artists Iri and Toshi Maruki depicting the scene in Hiroshima immediately after the atomic bombing, named Hiroshima Panel I, “Ghosts,” was sent from the Maruki Gallery for the Hiroshima Panels in Higashi Matsuyama, Saitama Prefecture, for its first full-scale restoration. The painting will undergo a complete restoration at the Institute for Conservation of Cultural Property of Aichi University of the Arts in Nagakute City, with completion expected by March, 2023.

“Ghosts” is an ink painting measuring 1.8 meters in length and 7.2 meters in width. It depicts a group of ghostly wanderers immediately after the atomic bomb in scorched clothing with their skin hanging from their bodies and their arms raised. When the work was first released in 1950, it was originally attached to eight panels. It was later reformatted into a hanging scroll, and then mounted on a folding screen of four panels in the 1980s. Over the past 71 years, the work was found to be stained and worm-eaten, with the wooden frame of the folding screen warped, and damaged. Based on the museum’s planned renovation in 2025, a decision was made to restore the work.

On the day of our visit, three museum staff members folded the painting and carried it out in a special container. After arriving at the Institute for Conservation, the folding screen will be disassembled and undergo an analysis of the painting materials as well as an examination of damaged parts, and then a decision will be made on a specific restoration method. Approximately 4 million yen will be allocated from a donation fund. During the renovation, a reproduction of the painting will be exhibited.

Iri Maruki, an IndSuiboku-ga (ink painting) artist from Asakita Ward, Hiroshima, entered the city center three days after the atomic bombing to confirm the safety of his family members. Toshi Maruki, a Western-style artist, joined him a week later. Based on their experiences, such as helping with relief activities, they created a total of 15 pieces entitled Hiroshima Panels and released them to the public over the course of a number of years till the last work was released in 1982. Fourteen of these pieces, excluding XV “Nagasaki” owned by the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, are housed in the Maruki Gallery for the Hiroshima Panels.

Yukinori Okamura, 47, a curator of the Maruki Gallery for the Hiroshima Panels, explained the significance of the work saying, “We would like visitors, from generation to generation, to experience the original work for as long as possible. For restoration of the remaining 13 pieces, the museum continues to seek support through donations.

(Originally published on December 17, 2021)