Photo/IllutrationSerious insect damage is seen in the far-right panel of one of the “Hiroshima Panels” artworks at the Maruki Gallery for the Hiroshima Panels in Higashi-Matsuyama, Saitama Prefecture. (Takemichi Nishibori)

  • Photo/Illustraion

HIGASHI-MATSUYAMA, Saitama Prefecture--The celebrated “Hiroshima Panels” series of artworks, inspired by eyewitness accounts of the atomic bombing carnage, have suffered serious insect damage and need a new facility to prevent further deterioration.

The paintings were drawn by Iri Maruki (1901-1995) and his wife, Toshi Maruki (1912-2000), who founded the Maruki Gallery for the Hiroshima Panels here in 1967.

Since 2012, museum staff have noticed white spots and irregular lines spreading across the traditional Japanese paper of the 14 paintings on permanent exhibit.

“For about the last two years, the number of insects has suddenly increased, and it is hard for us to keep repairing them,” a museum official said.

The works have not been kept in glass cases. The late artists wanted visitors to see them from up close in a natural setting.

The museum, operated through admission fees and donations, has decided to build a new temperature- and humidity-controlled building and implement other anti-insect measures. It is calling for donations, with a goal of 500 million yen ($4.6 million).

Iri, a Japanese-style painter from Hiroshima, was in Tokyo when the atomic bomb was dropped on his home city on Aug. 6, 1945. Three days later, the couple went to Hiroshima and witnessed the devastation, which inspired their haunting artworks of the bomb's aftermath.

The series comprises 15 paintings, but one belongs to a museum in Nagasaki, where the second atomic bomb was dropped three days after the one on Hiroshima.