The Bombing of Hiroshima Expressed Through Art

Atomic Cloud Over Hiroshima. Wikimedia Commons

August 6, 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945 by the United States with the goal of ending World War II. Three days later another bomb was also dropped on the city of Nagasaki. These two bombings were the only times in the history of the human race that nuclear weapons have been used in warfare, to devastating effect. At least 140,000 people were killed in Hiroshima by the end of the year, mostly civilians, along with every other living thing, and many more suffered from painful effects of radiation poisoning weeks and months later.

On August 9, 1945, 40,000 more people in Nagasaki were killed instantly.

The city of Hiroshima marked this day in 2015 with a ceremony of commemoration, attended by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Mayor of Hiroshima Kazumi Matusi and US Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy, calling for world peace and worldwide nuclear disarmament.

Art has the power to heal as well as to communicate elements of the human condition and make strong political statements. Many survivors have documented the nuclear bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in powerful paintings and drawings. These powerful paintings do all three, reminding the world of the destructive capabilities of nuclear warfare and warning us - all of us on the planet -  of the dangers of our worst selves. 

See some of the paintings and drawings created by survivors of the bombings here. They are both powerful and disturbing. They have been displayed at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima, Japan, along with thousands of others, and at Manchester Art Gallery in Manchester, England in 2014.

Also see the BBC article, Drawings show haunting memories of Hiroshima for more images from the bombing. 

The University of California at Los Angeles as been involved with the nuclear issue for over six decades, and developed a project called Children of the Atomic Bomb. You can read about the project here and see paintings and drawings by children who survived Ground Zero 1945 here.

Current Exhibits

Not to be missed are the Hiroshima Panels, consisting of 15 panels showing the results of 30 years of work by the artists Iri and Toshi Maruki. In these panels the Marukis depict their response to witnessing the devastation of Hiroshima just three days after the bombing took place, visually expressing the horror, pain, and suffering caused by the bombing and “the truth of war” and their “wishes for peace.” (1)  Some of these panels can currently be seen in several places:

The College of Arts and Sciences at American University in Washington D.C has an exhibit at the Katzen Arts Center June 13-August 16, the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Exhibition. Six of the folding screens from the Hiroshima Panels (see above) by Iri and Toshi Maruki are on display there.

Hiroshima MOCA, the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, is hosting a special exhibition July 18-September 27, 2015, Hiroshima Trilogy: 70th Anniversary of the Atomic Bombing. Part 1 of the trilogy, Life=Workdisplays the images of people who experienced the bombing directly or indirectly, Part 2 of the Exhibition, entitled Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness, will be on display July 25-October 18, 2015 and will feature the work of contemporary artists and their responses to the bombing.

The Hiroshima MOCA recently acquired the Hiroshima Panels, now under restoration, from the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, and a compilation of these will also be on display.

If you are anywhere near Bangor, Maine you also might want to see this new audio-visual art installation at the University of Maine as it commemorates the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima.

In New Haven, CT, the Art Exhibit of Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is on display Aug. 4, 2015-August 31, 2015

More: 2015 Hiroshima and Nagasaki Commemorations throughout the United States.

Related Articles

For another artist's reaction to another bombing and the horrors of war read Picasso's Guernica Painting.

For an article about how some painters have experienced and expressed grief read Painting and Grief.