Category: Uncategorized

Toshi (left) and Iri (right) Maruki

Over the course of 32 years Iri and Toshi Maruki created fifteen panels depicting the horrors of the atomic bomb and everything it encompassed. They are considered the artists of the atomic bomb. I first learned of these panels when I was 19, and couldn’t understand the implication from the fuzzy image on my computer screen. I had a lot of trouble finding adequate pictures for this entry, but please go to a library or seek out the references at the end of this entry to find a better image than what I have given. It is difficult to describe how I feel about these works, as it seems more of an afterthought. Artistically they are incredible. Emotionally they are devastating.

I first learned of them through a small interview clip online.  I heard a translated quote from Iri Maruki, saying how he did not want to paint this subject, but it was not up to him. The idea that the subject matter is so compelling that it must be painted is something I will never forget. I myself paint because if I don’t I end up dreaming of paintings, but what the Maruki’s wittnessed is a million times stronger. Although I couldn’t see the painting clearly first, his words drove me to find clearer pictures, and when I return to Japan one of my first stops will be Saitama, where there is a museum with their works.

Iri Maruki was born in 1901 in Hiroshima, Japan. He became an artist specializing in suiboku-ga, or India ink painting. His wife Toshi was born in 1912 in rural Hokkaido, and became a popular illustrator and oil painter. Both eventually moved to Tokyo, met, and were married in 1941.

During WWII Iri was drafted into the Japanese army, but then told he was unfit because of a large birthmark across half his face. Both artists opposed the war, and refused government pressure to paint patriotic military paintings. They were denied art supplies and lived in poverty for the whole of wartime.

On August 7th, 1945, one day after the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima the Maruki’s learned of the bomb and immediately set out for Hiroshima. Iri’s family still lived there and they spend three days traveling towards the ruins.

Iri Maruki described the feeling of traveling into another world. They found their family members, and helped the survivors for a time. When they eventually returned to Tokyo, Iri and Toshi Maruki realized they could no longer paint anything happy. They both described it has a darkness that hung in their paintings, and soon they realized they must confront this darkness. Just three years after they had traveled to devastated Hiroshima, Iri and Toshi Maruki decided to paint what they had seen.

The process was daunting. Toshi stripped in front of a mirror and drew herself and her husband in various poses. They tacked up sketches upon sketches around their home until they were surrounded by mangled bodies, and eventually decided upon a large paneled painting. They worked with inks, charcoal, and some oil paint. They came upon their system of painting together haphazardly. First Toshi would paint a figure, and Iri would say it was too clear or defined, and paint over it, muddying the painting. Toshi would say it was too muddied, and paint over the figure again. They would go back and forth in this manner, mostly in silence until something much greater than themselves emerged on the paper. Their first painting was named Ghosts.

Ghosts, Japan, 1950

“When our first painting was exhibited, word got around that we had painted the bomb and many came. For most of them it was the first time they had seen the bomb. the subject was something we saw often in Hiroshima, people walked with their arms outstretched, like a procession of ghosts. Their skin hung like rags they dragged their burned bodies falling and piling onto one another. Groaning and dying. There was no way to tell one charred face from another. Voiced turned cry and hoarse, friend introduced one another, but they still didn’t recognize each other.” -Iri Maruki

By the mid 1950s they had painted almost half of their collection. Originally they thought they were done with the first painting, but the survivors of the atomic bombs came to them and asked them to continue.

Fire, Japan, 1950

A massive change for them came in 1970, when they toured the US with their paintings. During this time they dealt with their long harbored feelings of resentment towards Americans, and also opened their eyes to many more atrocities in the world.  It was after that trip that these two artists changed their subject matter and painted the deaths of American prisoners of war at the hands of the Japanese. This painting is the most powerful to me because while every single person is in pain, and the well defined lines of blame are blurred and full of shame. Everyone is to blame, and everyone is hurt.

Section of Death of American Prisoners ar War, 1971, Japan

The last Hiroshima Panel was finished in 1982. Together they painted the sight of Hiroshima after the bomb, the actions afterward, the pollution of the earth by war, the Koreans and Americans who perished, and the sincerity of the anti war efforts. During this large span of time Iri and Toshi Maruki enjoyed their separate art careers, but became known as the artists of the atomic bomb. They helped educate the next generation and promoted peace their entire lives.

Here are some links on their works. The first is a documentary you can rent on YouTube for three dollars. I highly recommend you spend three dollars.


Blog #7 Kabuki

Kabuki is a type of theatres created in Japan in the earl 1600s. Although now it is a all male profession, this type of entertainment was created by a woman. Izumo no Okuni was a miko (type of priestess) that began to develop a new type of dance. She enlisted new dancers from the outer reaches of society, especially the prostitutes. Women were banned from the stage around the 1630s, changing the face of kabuki. Adolescent males were enlisted to fill the women’s roles, but soon this too was banned as it was considered too erotic. Although both bans were lifted in the 1650s, Kabuki had metamorphosized into what we see today.  There are three main types of Kabuki plays. The first, jidaimono, generally focuses on a major historical even of Japan, and can be a lengthy performance, lasting an entire day. The second, sewamono, depicted the commoners side of life, an commonly featured a pair of star crossed lovers. The third type of play is shosagoto, in which the piece I have chosen is categorized. The music that accompanies the plays are heavily influenced by Noh theater, and gives a minimalistic quality that relates a sense of double meaning to the performer’s actions. The sets are bare except for a few objects, and lighting is brought together with color change to give off different moods.

The piece I have chosen is The Orochi Dance, an excerpt of a larger performance, preformed by a current famous dancer Tamasaburo. What draws me to kabuki is that sense of drama. Every aspect of the theater has been distilled to its bare elements. Lighting and scenery coalesce the create an incredibly intimate scene. Within the first moment the dancer comes onstage, you are drawn in, and feel as though you are watching something private. Although many of the movements are subtle, the sparse landscape and singing bring every twitch of the hand into view. It is hard to miss something when every movement could be a painting.

Kabuki is still popular today within the country of Japan, and I plan to see it myself one day. Below are a few informational links, the first is a brief explanation of the mythical creature Orochi.

Blog #6 The Ephemeral

Artists nowadays work hard to make their art long lasting. Archival paper is a must for illustrators. Oil paints that do not fade with time are preferred. Extreme temperatures, moisture, and corrosive materials are the accomplices of time on artwork. You may remember there was a time when photography at museums were not allowed because the flash damaged the paintings! However there is another kind of art that does not worry about acid free paper; Temporary art. It is not designed to last, and in this respect holds onto the excitement of the moment. I have chosen this art because I love the idea of art reflecting life in its movement. We cannot hold onto the day, and we cannot always hold onto this art.

Temporary art has become more popular since technology to document such art has become more accessible. Yet the first artist I would like to introduce has been continuing a tradition of temporary art that never needed modern technology to last forever.

The Wheel of Life, 2008

Kalachakra, 2008

Losang Samten was born in Chung Ribuce, Tibet in the early 1950s. He studied to become a Buddhist monk during the 60s at the Namgyal Monastery in Dharamsala, India. During this time he also studied sand mandala art at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Art. He and his fellow monks created beautiful works of temporary art with just sand. Sand Mandalas are created from colored sand and are intended to purify, balance, and bless the surrounding area. It takes weeks of dutiful patience to create these works, and soon after their completion they are taken apart. Typically half of the sand is distributed to the audience, and the rest is put into a nearby body of water. The ritualistic disposal of the artwork is meant to symbolize the impermanence of life.

Na Hale 'o waiawi, 2003

Owache, 1999

The second artist in my little collection is the American Patrick Dougherty. In the 1980s he began to combine his love of carpentry and nature into art that he likes to call Stickworking. He takes branches, vines, and other greenery to create naturalistic sculptures and structures. Although his creations last longer than any other artwork in this collection, in time they do disappear. His whimsical creations are not always meant to last, and are often up for a few months before being turned into something else. The natural materials degrade and erode with the seasons.

Individuals, 1998

The Gypsy Magna, 2008

The last artist in my collection is actually one of my favorite artists. Vik Muniz is a visual artist from Sao Paolo, Brazil. Early in his life he was involved in an argument that ended with him getting shot. From the settlement money Muniz was able to come to America and start his career. Over the years he has used many temporary and permanent mediums to create his work. In fact he has used practically everything, from salt, to cotton, to ketchup. I have chosen three of my favorites. The first image is made of garbage, the second is made of chocolate syrup, and the third is the exhaust from a skywriter. The last image is my most favorite piece of modern art. The shape of the man made cloud is so childlike, it beams happiness…

Home Left, (early 2000s)


Although they are not made to last, because of photography I can learn about such creations. Yet there is something to be said about seeing such moving creations yourself, and not just looking at a photograph. Because of the ephemeral nature of this type of art, the creations feel more special. The hard work and dedication that go into these works serve their purpose immediately, and then vanish… that is, until someone takes a picture of them…

I have added the artist websites below:

This photograph is of one Allie Mae Burroughs, taken in either 1936. Burroughs lives in Hale County, Alabama. She works as a sharecropper and at the time was constantly in debt, and owned practically nothing. There isn’t a set title for her pictures as I found quite a few versions.

The photographer is Walker Evans who at the time was employed by the Farm Security Administration to document the plight of the poor farmers in America during the time of the Depression. He took four photographs of this woman against the rear wall of her home. Her face is worn from years of little food and hard work. Her hair does not appear to be washed, and her dress looks threadbare. Though each photograph of her looks the same, her expression makes each photograph stand by itself as it’s own work of art, rather than a collection.

I chose this photograph among the others as I feel her expression reveals more about the Great Depression. She looks almost annoyed that her picture is being taken at all, when there are more important things to be done. Walker Evans stayed as a guest in her home for a few weeks in August 1936, and had to convince Burroughs to let her picture be taken. I love this picture for it’s humility. It is not a shot of people working hard to earn their food or stereotypically saddened by their surroundings. Burroughs shows that there is an impatience in the poor. That they are willing and waiting for the opportunity to continue living.


Here is a nice bit of info about this woman.

The majority of the world loves Impressionism. People still hold it up on a pedestal as the emotional and color standard after hundreds of years. Each year students are taught basic color theory through the works of artists such as Cezanne and Manet, learning that within this movement modern art was born. I myself can be considered no different. I like the soft smudges and emotive colors, but I think learning more than the surface history of these works soured my view of Impressionism for many years. In order to understand my aesthetic response to Impressionism you need to understand my introduction to the world of squiggly paint.

Claude Monet, Le Parlement, Effet de Brouillard 1904

I was exposed to the works of Claude Monet in the third grade, far before I ever learned the word Impressionism. My third grade teacher explained that her favorite artist painted many beautiful water lilies and everything was full of sunshine in his paintings. She herself was a full-of-sunshine kind of person, perfect for an elementary school teacher. I then proceeded to ask the school librarian about information on Claude Monet. I ended up with quite a few books about Impressionism, and handed one about Monet specifically. I remember staring at Le Parlement, Effet de Brouillard while learning from the librarian what a horrible self indulgent person Monet had been. How he had moved his wife and his mistress (plus her children) into the same house together. Coming from a set and dry religious family this was an unforgivable grievance.

Edgar Degas, Dancers, Pink and Green 1980

At eight years old I had already condemned Monet and every Impressionist as a vapid shallow person who could only paint lovely things in order to hide his/her true intentions. The more I researched the lives of artists the worst my opinion became. The works of Degas did nothing to help my view. Degas was a womanizer, and his proof was the fact that all he seemed to paint were beautiful women. It was not until the fifth grade when I learned of Mary Cassatt, that Impressionism became something worthwhile to me. Her subject matter did not objectify women, nor did it seem to hide her opinion either. At the age of twelve I was able to see many of her works in person, and came to understand the art movement as a whole.

Mary Cassatt, The Bath 1983

Until Impressionism swept through the art world at the end of the 1800s, paintings had been plodding along in the same constraints it had held since paint was created. Portraits, military exploits, morality, and religious icons held their own through each generation of artist. Paint was portrayed as a flat surface, and each artist was taught that to hide the smudges and brushstrokes was an important skill. Impressionism signals the first steps art took towards allowing paint to be paint. Paint could be left bumpy and scrawled across a canvas with a tool. Paint started to become free, and vibrate! Paint was used in such a way that it vibrated, and in every painting there is movement. I find this especially so in the water lilies that made Claude Monet so moving to my third grade teacher.

Claude Monet, Reflections of Clouds on the Water Lily Pond 1920

Because of Impressionism, I can enjoy Rothko's No 2. 1951

I like Impressionism because it helped open the doorway for paint to become itself, rather than a voiceless interpreter. It represents a massive door that someone accidentally knocked into, and fell through. It created such a loud sound that everyone had to see the commotion for themselves. Impressionism is the grandfather of the modern art I love much more, such as the Mark Rothko painting shown. So in a roundabout way, I love Impressionism like everyone else, but I still have a high skepticism for the artists and their lifestyle.



Blog #3 Classical

The Tête à Tête, 1743


The painting shown is entitled The Tête à Tête. It was painted by William Hogarth in 1743. Hogarth was born in England in 1697. He was not just a painter but also a printmaker, a critic, and even a cartoonist. He helped pioneer the type of sequential art that later became our modern-day comic stips. His paintings typically depicted the middle classes, but this painting is a satirical work unveiling the life of the upper class.

The Tête à Tête is the second painting in a larger collection of work called The Marriage à-la-mode. The series is painted like a comic strip, with each scene continuing the storyline.  The first painting shows the young couple signing the marriage papers without even acknowledging each others existence. This painting shows them disheveled after a long night of parties. The rest go on to depict the young couple ignoring each other, becoming unfaithful, and eventually dying from their wicked transgressions.

These paintings attack the values of marriages of convenience. The ideas of wealth and the frivolousness of the upper class’ lifestyles. The overall themes are entrenched with morality.  The young wife is deliciously tired and happy from her late night, and stretches with a smile on her face. Her young husband on the other hand seems unhappy with his life, and is filled with ennui. There is no pleasure on his face, and he does not even care that his dog is about to dig into his pockets.

I chose The Tête à Tête because the couple depicted look hung over and the background made me think of the word nouveau riche.  The entire feeling of the painting leads me to believe that the couple do not have an independent thought between them.  William Hogarth emparts this information to the audience by the type of art that decorates their home. The room they are in are adorned with the “trendy” artwork of their day, but is still incredibly bland. They do not seem to mind that the bust on their mantle has a busted nose! They do not care about their appearance at that moment because no one of importance is near them (just their steward who seems very frustrated by the young couples activities)…

If you go on to look at the rest of the The Marriage à-la-mode series you will be able to see that this painting is a turning point. I like to think that the young man is deciding at this moment in the second painting to become unfaithful to his wife.

Blog #2 – Baroque

Johannes Vermeer’s Christ in the House of Martha and Mary was painted around 1654 in Delft, Netherlands. It is an oil painting on canvas and scales 160 x 142 cm.

The Netherlands was perfectly suited for many artists to make a tidy living off their artwork. The Thirty Year War had damaged Spanish rule, allowing the Netherlands to prosper into a merchant’s haven. Amsterdam became a hub for men to make money off of fishing and goods. This wealth spread into many homes, not just to businessmen.  Although not much is known about Vermeer’s patrons it is assumed that the upper middle class made up the bulk of his buyers. One of the more well known patrons is Pieter Claesz. van Ruijven. He had inherited his money from his father’s brewery and had raised himself through wise investments beyond the merchant class.  He supported Vermeer’s work throughout his lifetime and even lent the artist money when Vermeer’s finances were strained.

The reason I chose this painting over his many other well known works is because of it’s religious nature. Johannes Vermeer was not born Catholic, but converted shortly before his marriage to Catharina Bolenes in 1653. A few years after his marriage he stopped painting religious subjects and focused on the peasant life of Delft. In my opinion he painted Christ in the House of Martha and Mary and other religious paintings as a way to appease his new mother-in-law Maria Thins, who in many ways helped financially with his household. Although it is possible that his new found faith in Catholicism gave him inspiration the rest of his career makes me highly suspect. I enjoy this painting because it is an early Vermeer, and I can chart the growth of his technique throughout his career. The light that is captured in the blue of Mary’s skirt is breathtaking, even from an internet image. I love the idea that he used Indian Yellow. It is no longer being made as it is actually the dried urine of a cow that has been fed a special diet of mango leaves. Not very healthy for the cow, but marvelous for the world of painting.

Well Hello There…

Hello everyone. I am looking forward to this semester. Let’s all get through it alive…

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