|Thesis | The World of Teruo Sato | Work |4 The Landscape
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4, The Landscape


(4)  Why wasn't a genre picture drawn by Sato?

   "Genre picture" is a particular kind of portrait, which represents the aspect of actual society or civilization, and continuously shifts from portrait to genre picture in proportion to the number of people drawn in there. This is also the boundary between portrait (separate picture) and integrated picture (will be indicated later).
   The "genre picture" conveys a painter's view on the actual society. Even though it can provide various outcomes for Sato who professes pure realism, work of this kind does not exist among his works.
   It was 42 sketches (the number listed number on the book of picture collections) - of the vagrants in the underground of Ueno produced during the ten years from 1947 - that established the basis of Sato's original painting style. These can be classified as "genre picture", though their outcome did not bear fruits as tableau work, and only the partial motif was used for the later introspective works. The vagrant group, despite of a rapid economic growth after World War II, continued to remain at the bottom of society; Sato never turned his eyes to them.

   In this dessin, most vagrants are depicted as an individual object. There are only two works in which they are drawn as a group, and those are accumulation of portraits. Thus, among the works of Sato, including etude, "genre picture" does not exist.
   Why did Sato turn his back on the sphere which has a possibility for realism to show its strongest power, what is more, to bring about wealth and renown to the painters' lives? This is more mysterious than above-mentioned three absences.
   "They are not suitable for picture", said Sato. It would be an interesting work, for example, to gaze the audiences at a racecourse from a viewpoint of realism. However, such audiences are easily removed from Sato's view because they are "unsuitable".

   Picturing a group of people would split the world, therefore, is not desirable for the pure realism which seeks a single world. In public morals, however, a congregation of people has a meaning and indicates a single world. Therefore, the reason why Sato didn't involve himself in "genre picture" was not to preserve a single world, but to struggle against the literature. "Genre picture" does not have a strong programme but has a fragment of culture.
   The cultural elements in "genre picture" bring materials slightly favorable to literature. Although the realistic picture can be very strong in the area of public morals, because of literature's likewise being powerful, it is compelled to struggle against it. Moreover, a social view, involving politics, would attack the picture as well.
   It was Sato's personal hope that culture had to exist only for the absoluteness of the picture: carrying out picture-for-picture principle was his consistent attitude.Sato's personal hope is that the culture must exist only for . To carry out is his consistent attitude.
   This urged Sato to put himself at a certain distance from culture, where the absoluteness of picture won't be threatened; we name such attitude "non-culture". Sato didn't deny culture, but he purely extracted the elements that were useful to maintain the picture's absoluteness to create his own cultural world.
   The attitude of "non-culture" has a consistency with anti-literature. In order to carry through this "non-culture", the society - the mother's body of culture - must be kept away as far as possible. Thus, his subjects in portraits were either a completely private world, or people who were alienated from the times. Furthermore, his subjects were drawn as a single object to cut off the continuity with the society, and most of them were stripped off their clothes, or the cultural product. In Sato's picture themes, never appeared people who were publicly alive to recall the sociability and strengthened the cultural aspect.
   Then, he carefully avoided drawing those who were in miserable circumstances. Sato often said, "I don't picture the beggar". His resolution to maintain the picture's absoluteness was revealed in these words.  Sato also commented that if he drew "The Living Person Series" featuring workmen in a tableau, it would become an "excessive explanation"; it evidenced his attitude of anti-literature and non-culture.
   Sato's picture of the trees has a meaning of "genre picture". When picturing this, Sato received a sudden revelation of an aged from the old tree, a child from the sapling, and a middle age person from the big tree. Then, he sensed a microcosm of the human society from these various trees and was deeply impressed.
   Sato clearly personified the trees, even though there are no such signs in the picture, which makes this piece a "genre picture" internally, and a landscape outwardly. This technique will not damage the picture's absoluteness. Besides, the trees are suitable for Sato's non-cultural naturalism since they are part of the nature.

Virgin Forest
Virgin forest ; Date unknown

   In Sato's remarks, when drawing a picture of the trees, he was conscious of "Abbey in an Oak Forest" by Casper David Friedrich (1774-1840 German painter). He also mentioned that while Friedrich pictured the inside of his heart, Sato pictured both his feelings and the facts.
   Here we must look at "Virgin Forest"; upper left of the canvas is left unpainted. Why he did it? It is totally a matter of sense, Sato says. He did it in consideration of making it a "closed picture". He saw a single concluded world and, in order to confine it, left the upper left unpainted to produce an "incomplete etude".

Giant in the Forest
Giant in the Forest ; 1995
The Gate toward North
The Gate toward North ; 2001
Rupa-dhatu`Unworldliness` ; 2002
Sattva`Populus` ; 2002
Samsara`Woods of Walpurgis`
Samsara`Woods of Walpurgis` ;2002

   Perhaps Sato entrusted his self-confidence or ideal as a painter to the works entitled "Giant in the Forest". Sato himself avoided clarifying this issue. If such a large tree was considered to be a projection of an actual character, it for sure indicates a concluded world, which leads to the duplication of the world.
   As for the themes very important to Sato - for instane, Don Quixote and Maja - he dared to run the risk of duplicating the world. Supposed from this, Sato found a firm identity in this big tree. In other words, "Giant in the Forest" is not a landscape given a meaning of "genre picture", but one with a sense of self-portrait. "The Gate toward North" and "Rupa-dhatu~Unworldliness~" produced in this century belong to this category, too.
   In "Sattva~Populus~", however, the element of genre picture was intensified: personification of trees into common people had been developed here. The possible progression of this tendency comes to an end by the death of Sato in 2003. "Samsara~Woods of Walpurgis~" can be considered to be holding a middle position in between "The Gate toward North" or "Rupa-dhatu~Unworldliness~" and "Sattva~Populus~".
@There is another remarkable change in "Reminiscence" which was pictured in September 2002 after those works and became his last work as oil painting: - it is the numerous pictures arranged behind the model. Since these pictures convey their own individual worlds, they automatically bring about the multiplicity of the world, which would possibly lead to the abandonment of pure realism.
   But all the pictures in setting are his own production, so the structure still expresses his single world. Therefore, pure realism is still maintained in this piece.
   This change did not concern with his death, for a lot of pictures in the same composition were planned to be produced by Sato. He never felt a presentiment of his own death.

   However, in "Among the Bustle" depicted around the same time, the rabble in the town, even though in a subdued form, partly appears at the background of the street musician who represents a single world; this plainly demonstrates his interest in genre picture. When cross-examined with the change in "Reminiscence", it might become a sign developing into the partial modification of Sato's pictorial style.

   Realism and programme picture do not contradict each other, and there is an advantage to utilize the rich fruits of realistic literature. However, in this case, there is also a danger for picture being subordinated to literature as an illustration. To abide by the picture's pride and independence, Sato went on his way of creating absolute pictures in separate picture form, excluding the penetration of literature.
  Then he restricted production of programme picture - which shares the same theme as literature - only in integrated picture form. (Since the majority of Sato's works are separate picture, his achievement inclined to be absolute picture.)

   It is a choice of life as a painter - to decide either to let the picture degrade to an illustration, or to impoverish its theme. Once the decision was made, it was Sato's way of life to sternly pursue his own decision. He chose to live with non-cultural realism.
   Civilization is an ensemble of the technology, and is different from culture. There is no need, even for a non-culture, to deny civilization. However, in order to strictly pursue the pure realism, Sato assumed a non-cultural attitude so far as to civilization, a sill of the culture. In this manner, he clarified his position of non-civilization. He distanced himself from civilization, too.

Reminiscence ; 2002
Among the Bustle
Among the Bustle ; 2002

Autumn ; 2001

   In relation to culture, Sato didn't depict an aggregation of human beings, and kept a policy to choose people individually from the lowest social status as his pictorial theme. As for civilization, he pictured the places that were left behind from the industrial development; in many cases the lonely provincial villages are chosen. Since Sato did not picture an aggregation of human beings, any groups of people who engaged in the industry in these areas did not appear in his pictures.


 There are four works: "Frozen Port", "Thaw", "The End of Winter", and " View "- that can be mentioned as a non-civilized landscape. Sato focused on the natural flesh to detach the culture. Similarly, to detach the civilization, he devoted himself to the nature as scenery.

Frozen Port
Frozen Port ; 1979
Thaw ; 1976
The End of Winter
The End of Winter ; 1980
View ; 1980

   The literature also concerns the nature as scenery. Hence, this would be a decisive battlefield against the literature. The picture becomes superior to the literature by portraying an infinite natural phenomenon within a single canvas; therefore, Sato's landscape reached the extreme precision.
   Demonstrating his non-civilization attitude in a choice of the barren wasteland; furthermore giving absolute picture a chance to display its power to its maximum extent in uncompromising description of nature ? Satofs landscape was marked by those approaches. He rendered non-culture and non-civilization for the sake of the picture's absoluteness through scrupulously investigated description of nature.

   Devoting oneself wholly to the nature will be an advantage for the picture's absoluteness. But what matters more is that it will be useful for picturing a single world of pure realism. The deserted civilization is not strong enough to remind of another world, nor does it convey the internal idea since human figures are not depicted. There is nothing but a simple pure world created by the scenery, which secures the picture's absoluteness. Therefore, whatever Sato desired from picture is satisfied in landscape.
   Still life pictures do not clarify a singleness of the world. Self-portraits were not created to maintain a single world, neither were clothed Maja and genre pictures in protection of the picture's absoluteness. Sato, who carried out an abstinent attitude in the other types of pictures, demonstrated his perfect capabilities in reproduction of images to a maximum extent in landscape; such skills are compiled into the pictures of the sea which is precise in every detail.
   Having defined his position of non-civilization in his pictures of the land, Sato refused to draw any hint of civilization in that of the sea. Not even one artifact is found there. The sea was an innocent bride for Sato. The sea, at least, had to remain as a perfect single world before his eyes. Every picture of the sea was depicted in tableau form as an "opened picture"; there are no etudes.
   Sato depicted all movements on the sea surface in detail. He was confident that no one has ever pictured such sea in art history. Sato himself explained the reason for drawing the sea in detail as "service for the customer". However, this explanation was not convincing.
   From Sato's viewpoint, the sea transcends the human being. "The sea exceeds the human race," he affirmed with the feeling of awe. If so, the sea for him might well be a substitution of God, or substantial God.

   Picture must convey truth, amusement, love and emotion, recounted by Sato. The amusement is picturing the theme which is easy for anyone to understand as a representational painting. The truth probably means an attitude to have penetrating eyes that are free from illusion - a premise of realism.
   And the emotion is perhaps the admiration by appreciators for the objects being perfectly reproduced by the painter's full use of practiced techniques. Among these, love is most difficult to understand. Sato himself never gave a clear answer to this.
   However, it has become self-evident here. Love for Sato as a human was private and ideal eros expressed in his pictures of Maja in the inhibited form: meanwhile, for Sato as a painter, love was public and practical eros fearlessly hidden in the scrupulous pictures of the

                                                         \ Written, summarized and translated by Taketoshi Murayama@\                                                           \ Original translation is rewritten by Michiko Takahashi Christofis \

This text must not be translated into any other languages without author's permission.

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