|Thesis | The World of Teruo Sato | preface |

The World of Teruo Sato
 ; Summarized Edition


                          Written and summarized by Taketoshi Murayama
                          Translated by Chigusa Tanzawa
This original text is written in Japanese.
Complete edition will be translated into English in the future.
This text must not be translated into any other languages without author's permission.

Only artists have the right to speak about culture. But as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe had warned, the primarily task of an artist is to create rather than to speak. Then, we find the critics as the closest persons who can speak about culture on behalf of the artists. A critic does not create art but can speak about it as a substitute of the artist. Yet, a critic is still a mere consumer of culture.
   The combination of critique and creation is extremely rare. Thus, an artist speaking about his own artwork from the standpoint of a critic is equally rare. In the end, those who have the right to speak about culture do not need to do so, and those who actually speak situate outside of it.
   This fundamental paradox between culture and cultural analysis is generally not recognized. If we look back at human history, we see that the amount of words spoken about culture is enormous. No other thing urges people to speak and want to speak about, more than culture does.
   Why is culture so persistently spoken about? This is because it most directly expresses humans' sense of superiority, and disdain to others as its opposite. In the collective level, this disdain is directed towards minorities and foreigners. In the individual level, culture is spoken as a means to overcome the sense of inferiority. That is, culture is spoken as a slight sign of violence manifestation. However, there is nothing more irrelevant than this to an artist.
   This is why culture must always be spoken about critically. The worst way of speaking about culture is to use it as a means of political mobilization. This is when culture loses its real content and becomes a screaming of symbols; it goes out of the artists' hand and oppresses them at the end. In such a case, politicians become the main actors who speak about culture. If religious figures, who may well fall into a public-private confusion, enter in the scene here, the worst form of culture speech is consecrated. This kills the speech as a critique of culture.
  Hence, in order to keep art in the creator's hand, to speak about it in the richest way, and further, to make it a common property of human kind, culture must be spoken about in a suppressed way by critics with the highest level of frigid rationality, through their analysis of activities of an individual artist. Otherwise, there is absolutely no need to speak about culture.

  Teruo Sato (1926-2003) was a man of Japanese extraction. The analysis of Sato's world in this website is based on such a spirit. We wish this website to be broadly recognized as a model textbook of the critical spirit shown above.
    In this website, the reader will repeatedly note the importance of world and world-view in the creation of art. World-view is the idea that creates continuously and systematically the world as the universal base of art creation. Those without a world-view cannot be more than occasional artists. Yet, even such persons can become artisans by the acquiescence of technique.
   World-view has as its basis the recognition about ideal and reality for human kind and their relationship. Thus, those who do not possess their own vision of ideal and reality cannot possess a clear world-view either. Those without awareness of the ideal are likely to remain as artisans.
   Certainly this ideal is not about political ideal. It must be the ideal for an artist. There, beauty is included as an essential element. The opposite of ideal, that is, reality, would include ugliness, the opposite of beauty.
   When reality is conceived in a clear way, the ideal as its opposing order may also be suggested or implied. There, the relationship between ideal and reality is surely expressed. Therefore world-view is clearly presented and world as the basis of art creation is created.
   "Realism" is the one that most deliberately aims at both exposing reality and implying ideal. Teruo Sato was a declared realist, and actually worked on the art creation based on it. He had a clear consciousness about the relationship between ideal and reality that creates his world-view. Hence, regardless of his personal sense of beauty, or whether or not he used a realist method, he could be and was always an artist.
    Japan, where he was given birth, was a country of artisans. So, it can be said that Sato was born in a country where his spirit of creation is understood the least. Not to have his/her artwork understood is the biggest misfortune of an artist. Since he was born, Sato had to bear this misfortune like a cross on his back.
    This website was created in order to bring the work of an artist who lived in tragedy, back to its proper place. This proper place is the hall of art, where artisans are denied to step in. Thus, we shall start with an analysis of the fundamental meaning of art.

  Artistic ideal would be included in human's ideal. It would follow like a shadow. Human's ideal was suggested by the creation of life and universe. It took further steps with the advent of civilization. When the power of these creations and steps loosened, there appears a need to recover this primitive energy. This is the very ideal.
   This return to the state of origin can be called a revolution in the wide sense. Political revolution is merely its partial expression. Revolution in wide sense is also a return to the origin of creation. Hence, it is also possible to call it a fundamental conservatism. Revolution in the wide sense, then, coincides with fundamental conservatism.
    Only the revolution in the wide sense can propose an ideal. This, in turn, brings in the recognition of reality. From this conflict between ideal and reality, world-view is established and the world as the universal creative basis of art is created. Every artwork is an echo of the revolution in the wide sense.
   Humankind has experienced five times such revolutions. The first was the creation of civilization that brought about the four ancient civilizations. The second was the revolution of human's self recognition, called Renaissance. The third was the various political revolutions that followed the Reformation. The fourth was the expansion of capitalism that was triggered by the French Revolution.
    The most recent revolution is the second Industrial Revolution called IT Revolution that began in United States in the late 20th century. This shall bring about the art creation of the present century.
    That is, all artworks are echoes of the five revolutions that humanity has experienced in the past. Among these five, the two revolutions that followed Renaissance and Reformation happened and concluded in the Western world. These many revolutions lie behind the supremacy in art of the Western world. (The capitalism expansion happened in the West but its effect spread all over the world. The effect of IT Revolution shall have the same results as well.)
    Literature most quickly senses revolution. Fine art recognizes the completion of revolution following literature, and music gives the final recognition. If we take Renaissance for example, we can see that Dante Alighieri proposed its advent, Raffaello Santi materialized it, and Claudio Monteverdi gave its final adorn.
    First, word appears as prophecy, then image searches into its meaning, and finally sound makes it a common sense. Thus, in order to understand the true meaning of art as a property of human kind, we need to trace back to the revolutions that create the world-view, which is, in turn, the source of creation.
    Painting, as the main form of artistic expression, recognizes the completion of a revolution. This recognition is done in varied modes. First, the most advanced works of the times reflect the advent of revolution into one's inner part. Here, the painter confronts society in his/her individual inner side. Also, at this stage, the painter is thought to be most susceptible to God's revelation.
    Next, the painter enjoys revolution as it goes on, and he/she walks side by side with the times. At this stage, the paintings are also broadly recognized by the public as society's property. Here, the painter is away from both God and Devil, and relies solely on his/her own will.
    The artworks that appear at the end urge revolution to restrain, and turn their back to the times. Here the painter recurs to his/her inner world and leaves himself/herself to mysticism. Here, he/she may hear voices of the Devil. Yet, such a retrogressive posture also constitutes a terminal episode in the history of revolution.
     In going through a painter's work from its root to the whole, it is necessary to clarify how the operation of peculiar image processing is done in relation to the revolution in the wide sense discussed above. What is essential is an eye that penetrates deep, from the origin of creation of human civilization to the one-centimeter cubic piece that a painter's brush creates on the canvas.
   If we want a comprehensive understanding of a painting we should know that, surveying the painter's factional classification, placing it forcefully in the history of culture, or repeating a microscopical search in the atelier will never lead us to the goal.


Sato, born with a solid realist world-view in a country of artisans, is a child of the fourth revolution, that is, the modernization that followed the French Revolution. Japan accepted this revolution passively by the threat of Commodore Matthew C. Perry in 1853 for the opening of Japan, but once transplanted, it triggered the creation of art.
   However, we cannot expect the Japanese, who dealt intuitively with this revolution by appropriating only its superficial results, to have an understanding of the foundations of artistic creation. They did not acquire even a partial recognition of the ideal, which is the essence of revolution. What is left is only a xenophobic reaction to foreign things.
  Thus, in Japan, the basis of artistic creation did not exist from the outset. Here, the Japanese's inherent tendency for artisan worked and Japan became the realm of artisans. Thus, in a double sense, Sato lost the opportunity of making his work be understood in his own country.
   Sato possessed everything of painting. Also, he went through a rigorous examination of all the elements of painting: for example, when drawing fading lines in representational paintings, he left on the canvas all the properties that such lines have; not to mention the variety of expression style that ranges from fragmentary etude to complete tableau. Also, while giving an extreme emphasis on formation, he deliberated upon all the attributes of color. His pictures included setting-leading type as well as object-leading type. His style ranged from the use of delicate lines to an audacious use of brush; from precise realistic paintings to unprecedented psychological depictions.
   In Sato resides something of the same nature with Leonardo Da Vinci's seriousness, Michelangelo's passion, Jan Vermeer's precision, Francisco Jose de Goya's ardor, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres' religiosity, Edgar Degas' reality and Gustave Courbet's frigidity. In matters of technique, even the affection of Pierre Auguste Renoir, with whom he does not have any point in common, can be felt.
    In this way, Sato reached the shore of Paul Cezanne and from there he reversed his steps into the East. From then on, Sato went his way looking sideways at the 20th century's Western paintings. That is, in Sato's paintings, the richness of Western paintings up to 19th century is embedded in a strong unity of painting style. The 19th century was the very first era when the fourth revolution blossomed.
    This richness, though, is not an imitation. It was formed inside himself from the time when Sato, who was determined to become a painter since his juvenile years, was brought half forcefully to his own painting field, when Japan's defeat in the Second World War made him come across a host of homeless people. This eventually led him to walk side by side with those historical great masters.
    Japan, as aforementioned, does not know the revolution that started with Renaissance and Reformation. But Sato, by immersing himself into his own thoughts, made of the fruits of Western painting his own belonging.
   These are dispersed in his whole painting work, and we see only parts of them in individual works. Sato never expressed every element of painting with equal emphasis. Here we can see his preference and bias that comes from his personality. Lines have a modest variety, and vivid pure colors are used only as accents. The quantity of paintings that opposes literature is limited. Sato is a painter that ought to be evaluated by the work as a whole and not by individual works.
    Thus, even if he took half a century to go through everything about painting, it can be said that there have been almost no opportunity for his paintings to be exposed to full light in a way that everyone can understand. His integration work, although being a rare achievement hardly seen in history, cannot be clearly captured on its whole.
    This is the misfortune that Sato's paintings bear. For plastic arts, the assessment by human's vision is decisive. Hence, in order for the excellence of Sato's painting to be expressed, there is a need that an auxiliary called word speaks clearly about it. This is why this website was created.
    On this website, the realist world-view as the basis of Sato's creativity, together with vigorous images, will be presented according to aspects such as picture's genre, evolving history of his painting work and painting method.
    Also, the reader will notice that some specific works of Sato will be picked up again and again on this website. If you pay attention, you will see that these viewpoints are all different from each other. This means that Sato's work demands analysis from many angles. Hence, the more a specific work appears on this website, the more important it is for Sato.

 Lastly, we need to add a word about "Realism," which constitutes Sato's painting philosophy. The word "Realism" carries different nuances for Japan and for Western countries.
   In the West, "Realism" is associated with the "Problem of Universals," brought about by Scholasticism. "Realism" was a concept that suggested the existence of "universal." The real existence of "universal" is usually understood as integrated with the existence of God. Hence, "Realism" can also be the basis of "religion."
   But when Rene Descartes suggested the autonomy of human reason, and "idea" that opposed "existence" was discovered, "reason" began to predominate over "religion". The counter offensive against "idea" and "reason" began in the mid-18th century, but it was not from the perspective of "religion" but from that of matter. Although eventually the same denomination of "realism" of the medieval times came to be used, its meaning was completely different. This is the modern realism, and it became the spirit that pushed forward the aforementioned fourth revolution.
    In Japan where only the fruits of this revolution were brought in, "realism" is completely separated from the "Problem of Universals," and is used only in its modern meaning. Moreover, the word is used more than necessary.
    In a Western linguistic sense, the position that depicts realistically a visible reality by painting, as Sato's, would be properly called "verism". But in Japan, there is no question in calling it "realism". Also, Sato himself recognized that he was not only a painter but also a philosopher as well. Hence, it would be against his will to have his position determined based only on his artistic philosophy.
    Thus, on this website, respecting Sato's will, and following a Japanese linguistic sense, we decided to express his painting philosophy by the word "realism".

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