The Phillips Collection will be presenting Jacob Lawrence and the Children of Hiroshima between August 23 to November 27, 2022 in Washington D.C. The museum’s latest exhibition reexamines the impact of the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima, Japan through a conversation between Jacob Lawrence’s Hiroshima prints and selected drawings by the children of Hiroshima’s Honkawa Elementary School. Created 35 years apart, the clear call and response in these two powerful bodies of work convey the emotional impact of nuclear warfare and the potential for peace and reconciliation.
When Jacob Lawrence was selected by Limited Editions Club to illustrate one of their titles in 1983, he chose John Hersey’s book, Hiroshima, a vivid account of six survivors of the atomic bomb. Lawrence’s haunting scenes are cloaked in dissonant shades of pink, red, yellow, and blue. Lawrence intentionally generalized the features of the skull-like heads to make a universal statement about “man’s inhumanity to man.”
“To present Jacob Lawrence’s Hiroshima series for the first time in Phillips’s history together with the children’s drawings from Honkawa Elementary School demonstrates the powerful conversation between art and significant moments of our time,” shares Chief Curator Elsa Smithgall.
In December 1947, All Souls Church Unitarian under the leadership of Reverend A. Powell Davies inspired his congregation to collect and donate school supplies to children affected by the dropping of the atomic bomb at Honkawa Elementary School. In response, the students of Honkawa sent a collection of drawings to the church of happy memories and moments filled with brilliant colors that did not suggest the loss and devastation in their lives. In 2010, the drawings were reunited with the surviving artists in Hiroshima.
“The Hiroshima Children’s Drawings are predicated on the human wisdom of hope…hope for the elimination of nuclear weapons as a part of human relations,” says All Souls Church Unitarian Executive Director Traci Hughes-Trotter. “It is a testament that the drawings are paired with Lawrence’s Hiroshima series by All Souls Church Unitarian and The Phillips Collection to join in the hopeful cry of “never again.”