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UK-held art by Hiroshima survivors set to be returned to Japan

13th July 2016

Paintings by survivors of the Hiroshima atomic bomb drop during World War Two are set to be returned to Japan, after staying in the UK for decades.

The works were donated to a Manchester teacher by a school principal from the Japanese city during the 1950s, with the works eventually finding their way to art education supervisor Michael Stevenson.

The paintings were created by students of the Methodist Girls' High School, and were used as teaching aids once they reached the UK, before going on display at the House of Lords to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the attack in 2015.  

One of the most prominent paintings is that of the Hiroshima Genbaku Dome, which famously survived the attack.

The school itself has unsurprisingly been seen a fascinating history and is believed to have reopened just three months after being bombed in August 1945.

After leaving the Japan, the paintings were taken to the US by Dr Takuo Matsumoto, who gifted them to Prue Wallis-Myers.

They were donated as part of UNESCO's attempts to find new ways in which to build peace and sustainable development, with the organisation believing it would help to enhance international co-operation, with the exchange of art works produced by children believed to be a useful tool.

Upon eventually receiving the paintings, Mr Stevenson, who was responsible for art education for his local borough, said he soon "became convinced the paintings should be returned to Japan".

But the process of actually handing the paintings back to Japan took some five years to complete.

"I believe the paintings should be appreciated not simply as beautiful objects, but for the lessons they contain about the wonderful resilience of the human spirit expressed in art by young people," he said.

"For that reason, they deserve to be conserved for future generations to appreciate, and Hiroshima is the right place for that to happen, since that is where they were made."

The Lord Mayor of Manchester, Carl Austin-Behan, added: "Despite being created by pupils who experienced such horror the images portrayed are remarkably positive. For decades the Hiroshima collection has managed to inspire hundreds of teachers and students across the north west of England with their message of harmony and co-operation. I’m delighted they can now be returned to their original home as a tribute to the artists who created them along with our message of thanks, appreciation and friends."

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