Nuclear art

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The Nuclear art was an artistic tendency developed by some European artists and painters, after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Conception and origins[edit]

In the days, weeks and years following the atomic bombing of Japan, trained and untrained artists who survived the bombings began documenting their experiences in artworks.[1] The U.S. occupation authorities controlled the release of photographs and film footage of these events, while photographers and artists on the ground continued to produce visual representations of the effects of nuclear warfare. Photographer Yōsuke Yamahata began taking photographs of Nagasaki on August 10, 1945 (the day after the bombing), however his photographs were not released to the public until 1952 when the magazine Asahi Gurafu published them.[2]

Historical nuclear art in Italy[edit]

In 1948, the artistic movement of Eaismo, published a manifesto illustrating some aspects of the atomic age and, at the same time, criticizing the industrial use of nuclear energy.[3]

It was a movement of poetry and painting, founded by the Italian artist Voltolino Fontani, aiming to balance the role of men in a society upset by the danger of nuclear radiation.[4] The artistic group was strengthened by the poet Marcello Landi and by the literary critic Guido Favati. In 1948 Voltolino Fontani depicted the disintegration and fragmentation of an atom on canvas, by creating the artwork: Dinamica di assestamento e mancata stasi.

In 1951 the painters Enrico Baj and Sergio Dangelo created the Arte nucleare movement, criticizing and putting the repetitiveness of painting (as an artistic and commercial phenomenon) in discussion.[5] Plenty of Italian artists, in Milan and Naples, and foreigners like Yves Klein, Asger Jorn, Arman, Antonio Saura joined the movement. The main representative of the arte nucleare movement was Piero Manzoni, who in this context, for the first time in his life, put his talent in evidence.[6]

Unlike Eaismo, recommending artists to pursue painting values (and poetry),[7] the arte nucleare movement tried to promote a new form of art in which painting was marginalized.[8]

Historical nuclear art in Spain[edit]

In the meantime, Spanish painter Salvador Dalì published the Mystical manifesto (1951), putting catholic mysticism and nuclear themes together. In this period Dalì created artworks like Idillio atomico (1945) and Leda Atomica (1949).

Historical nuclear art in France[edit]

In 1949 the french artist Bernard Lorjou started to paint his monumental artwork “l’age atomique” (The atomic age). The painting was concluded after one year and is now located in the Centre Pompidou.

Historical nuclear art in the United States[edit]

The British sculptor, Henry Moore, created a bronze public sculpture, entitled, Nuclear Energy (sculpture) (1967) that depicted both the fatality of nuclear weapons as well as celebrated the invention of nuclear energy for use as electrical power. The sculpture is located on the grounds of the University of Chicago, where the first self-sustaining nuclear reaction was produced at the Chicago Pile-1, under the oversight of the Manhattan Project and Enrico Fermi. The sculpture is in the form of a hybrid mushroom cloud and human skull.[9]

Contemporary approaches to nuclear art[edit]


After the March 2011 accident that caused three nuclear reactors to melt down at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan, there have been numerous responses by contemporary Japanese artists, including Shigenobu Yoshida, Tatsuo Miyajima, Iri and Toshi Maruki, and Hiroshima bomb survivor, Tadasi Tonoshiki.[10]In 2015 an exhibition was organized in the Fukushima exclusion zone, "Don't Follow the Wind" by curator, Kenji Kubota, that includes the work of 12 international artists.[11]

North America[edit]

The cultural critic, Akira Mizuta Lippit, has written that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the most significant photographic and cinematic event of the 20th Century.[12] There have been numerous exhibitions of photographic works, including the 2015 show, Camera Atomica, at the Art Gallery of Ontario, exhibiting two hundred works. [13][14]



  1. ^ Dower, John. "Ground Zero 1945: Pictures by Atomic Bomb Survivors". MIT Visualizing Cultures - Ground Zero 1945. Massachussetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved 17 November 2015. 
  2. ^ Japanese Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) (1977). Unforgettable Fire: Pictures Drawn by Atomic Bomb Survivors. New York: Pantheon Books. ISBN 978-0394748238. 
  3. ^ * G.Favati, V.Fontani, M.Landi, A.Neri, A.S.Pellegrini, Manifesto dell'Eaismo, Società Editrice Italiana, Livorno, 1948
  4. ^ * Maria Grandinetti, Punti programmatici del Movimento Eaista, in Arte Contemporanea, Roma,1949 link read on april 2011
  5. ^ * Luciano Caramel, Arte in Italia, 1945-1960, Vita e Pensiero, Milano 1994
  6. ^ link read on april 2011
  7. ^ *G.Favati, V.Fontani, M.Landi, A.Neri, A.S.Pellegrini, Manifesto dell'Eaismo, Società Editrice Italiana, Livorno, 1948
  8. ^ Arman, Baj, Bemporad, Bertini, Colonne, Chapmans, Colucci, Dangelo, De Miceli, D'Haese, Hoeboer, Hundertwasser, Klein, Koenig, Manzoni, Nando, Noiret, A. e G. Pomodoro, Restany, Saura, Sordini, Vandercam ,Verga, Manifesto contro lo stile, Milano, 1959, link read on april 2011
  9. ^ Smithsonian American Art Museum. "Nuclear Energy (sculpture". Art Inventories Catalog. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 17 November 2015. 
  10. ^ Shimizu, Hiroko. "A new Perspective: Ichi Ikeda". Atomic Legacy Art issue. WEAD. Retrieved 17 November 2015. 
  11. ^ Quackenbush, Casey. "The Radioactive Art Exhibit that You Can't Even Go To". Observer Culture. Observer. Retrieved 17 November 2015. 
  12. ^ Lippit, Akira Mizuta (2005). Atomic Light (Shadow Optics). Milwaukee, MN: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 978-0816646111. 
  13. ^ Art Gallery of Ontario. "Camera Atomica". AGO. Art Gallery of Ontario Musée des beaux-arts de l"Ontario. Retrieved 17 November 2015. 
  14. ^ O'Brian, John; Bryan-Wilson, Julia (2015). Camera Atomica: Photographing the Nuclear World. Canada: Black Dog Publishing. ISBN 978-1908966483. 
  15. ^ Lerager, James (2013). "A Photo Essay: Nuclear History, Nuclear Destiny". Women Environmental Artists Directory (Atomic Legacy Art). Retrieved 17 November 2015. 


  • E.Baj, S.Dangelo, Manifeste de peinture nucleaire, Brussels, 1952, in T. Sauvage, Pittura italiana del dopoguerra, Scwwarz Editore, Milano, 1998.
  • Martina Corgnati, Il Movimento nucleare arte a Milano, edizioni Credito Artigiano, Milano, 1998.
  • Luigi Vita; Joseph Vittorio Greco (reviewer) (November 1973). "Storia della poesia del dopoguerra". The Modern Language Journal (National Federation of Modern Language Teachers Associations) 57 (7): 367–368. doi:10.2307/324669. JSTOR 324669. 

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