Portrait is a manifestation of a painter's view on human: and landscape is a reflection of his view on nature. The landscape of a civilization involves his view on civilization as well. In this website, such pictures inclusive of both views are classified as "integrated picture". (Meanwhile, portraits and landscapes may be grouped as "separate picture".)
Until 1963, as a distinguished illustrator, Sato had pictured various objects upon given orders. However, the variation of objects pictured by him as a painter is extremely limited. On that account, it is important to cross-examine this object limitation in discussion of his works; his recognition of the world and the field on which he is standing will come to the surface through his choice of
It is Sato's picture philosophy, or his persistent faithfulness to pure realism that narrowed the limit of the objects. The pure realism is nothing but
rendering of a single world; Sato had rigorously fulfilled and thoroughly
practiced this principle.
(1) Why wasn't a still life picture drawn by Sato?
work is necessarily framed. Setting up a frame at any place in the world allows
a painter to accommodate various aspects in a work. Inside the frame he can
expand or contract the objects at any ratio, as is the privilege granted only
to the painter.
of a work frame is a concluded universe, though there is the actual universe
existing outside. The frame can become an opened universe by establishing
continuity between materials inside and the universe outside of it. Once the
frame is opened, the world inside will become a part of the actual universe.
Depiction of both elements - one concludes within a frame, and the other linked with the external universe - makes the frame itself the universe and a microcosm of another universe
simultaneously. The repetition of this process can generate an infinite
dimension.By picturing the elements which conclude within the work frame and continue
on to , the frame itself becomes a universe and the microcosm of the another
universe simultaneously. The repetition of this process can generate
an infinite dimension.
However, as noted above, introducing the infinite universe into a work
would mean renouncing a single world. This is contrary to the ideal
way as a human being who can bear with only one actuality. For a realistic
painter, who is based on this theory, it is suicidal to produce the infinite
universe inside of his work frame: he must devote himself either to produce
a single complete universe in there, or to establish continuity between
his work and the actual universe which extends beyond the frame. Creation
of two universes within a single piece of work would be self-contradictory.
fact, all works by Sato, an apostle of pure realism, embody these two. We name
the piece of a concluded universe "closed picture", and one connected with outside "opened picture". In the sheer realism, "opened picture" always connects
with only one actual universe, and hence the creator's viewpoint must not
be set in another universe.
life picture is the one object of which is unrelated to the painter's view on
human, nature or world. All pictures painted by those who without any world-view
would become a still life picture, regardless of their technical skills. No
matter how precise, a still life picture alone would not bring forth a world-view.
On the other hand, regardless of painting technique, pictures by those
who with a world-view would become an artwork. Any picture, other than
still life pictures, whoever draws it, has the possibility to become an
artwork. However, still life pictures are considered so only when
produced by an artist.
life picture is the privileged territory open only to painters. This is because
of the fact that it does not concern with the world-view, being free from the combat
Being divorced from the world-view had no meaning for Sato - a realist
pursuing a single world. For Sato as a painter, however, still life picture
was useful as it requires advanced skills. In order to reach a compromise,
he came up with a truly unconventional method - picturing a human, which
is deeply related to the human-view, as an individual object.
"genre picture", picturing many humans would eventually form a
pattern that strongly exposes the painter's human-view. However, this would be
approaching more towards landscape, while deviating from still life picture. Still
life picture concerns the image, and landscape is deeply related to the world:
these two types are incompatible. Therefore, in a portrait that drawn as a kind
of still life picture, its object must be an individual.
Depiction of human figures ties in with the human-view, so it isn't
against the realism which seeks one world. Still life portrait was the
domain which Sato, both as a realist and a painter, has chosen. Since portraits
demand advanced skills, it is most suitable for the technical training
required in still life pictures; but usual still life picture was
entirely unnecessary for Sato, a devoted realistic painter. Sato's superiority
is exhibited in his concretization of this method not only in theory but
also in pictorial form.
The upper left is one of the dessins of bivouacking people at the underground of Ueno (the north-east area of Tokyo) produced from 1946 to 1956. Below is a head of a woman pictured in 1970. There are many pictures of such kind throughout Sato's works. Incomplete as they seem, those pictures are still life portraits.
Sato said, "The drama is presented most on the face". Brain is
the only part of a human body where he operates the "idea"
to materialize his world, which is revealed through facial expressions.
In a word, only the face has a closed world among human organs.
Internally, the idea is thought as infinite. However, because of its invisibility,
it is considered as nothing in pictorial aspect. In other words, depiction
of only a face makes it possible to confine a single world within
a work frame: it was natural for Sato, an apostle of pure realism, to intuitively
consider the works depicting single, isolated faces as consequential.
Ever since Sato was young, up to death, he, who had a realistic, true-to-life
method under his thumb, had been charmed by portrait of Amedeo Modiliani (1884-1920 Italian painter), who had a different pictorial style. This is not for no reason,
rather a style beyond skills and techniques.
Although the portraits singling out faces are the essential part of Sato's
work, he came up with even more innovative pictorial expression: that was
to separate the faces from work frame and breaking off continuity with
the external world. When part of a portrait connects with the outside through
its frame of the canvas, both the internal world which the depicted figure
represents and the external world will appear in a single piece of work.
duplicates the world and pollutes the spirit of pure realism, or creation of a
single world. To avoid it, Sato slightly separated the object of still life
portrait from the edge of the canvas. In tableau, he enclosed the object with the canvas to give it an incomplete appearance. He had named this type of work "etude". Although "etude" seems intentionally negligent, it is
a complete work declaring the pureness of realism.
Originally, "etude" is a sketch for a complete work; Sato's "etude"
was, however, the independent work. His aim of "etude" was clearly
described in his remarks stressing that "etude" focuses on its
theme, while tableau builds its screen composition.
For Sato, an utter realist who always strived to picture a single world,
the "etude" would inevitably become a "closed picture"
which confines a single world within its work frame. "Opened picture", which
illustrates part of the external world, would never become an "etude",
because its frame has a continuity with the external world.
However, Sato's "etude" isn't composed of just objects and canvas:
several patterns of color lines which Sato calls "accent" are added in between them. These color lines are not only decorations of the object but also painted signature authenticating "etude" to produce one closed world.
In addition to high techniques being required, still life portrait as "etude"
is at the same time the purest still life picture, and conforms to the
regulations of pure realism. Moreover, "etude" can be premonitory
of complete portrait, and the possibility for further development to be
built in it. With such significance in this form of "etude",
there is no need for Sato as a painter to create other forms of
still life picture; such a job would be for Sato as an illustrator. Sato
often said, "Still life pictures are not enough for me", indicating
his sensuous grasp of the matters previously mentioned.
In order to pursue technical practices, Sato produced still life portraits
mostly as "etude" in female nude images, as it had become his
For Sato, projection of his world to every part inside a frame could be
achieved only in oil paintings, meanwhile all pastel paintings were
the etude. To use Sato's words: "The world of tableau is tightly settled and
concluded", the above-mentioned style of etude in tableau immediately applies to pastel paintings.
There are two kinds in Sato's etude: one consists of principal object
and accent, the other deals with other objects. We name the former "complete
etude", and the latter "incomplete etude". It can be said
that the former is the cohered form of realism, and the latter is the one
that adopted the elements of usual still life picture.
Object, or theme and part of setting are to be pictured in "incomplete
etude": it means that, compared to "complete etude", world
of "incomplete etude" extends further out. For this reason, it
may be said that the "complete etude" is an internal picture,
while the "incomplete etude" is an external picture. In "incomplete
etude", the creator's interest is shifted further away from the face,
being somewhat distanced from him.
Consequently, the work composed of a human head by itself would never be
pictured in "incomplete etude", meanwhile a vague facial expression
seldom exists in "complete etude". There are hardly any works
of human figures whose faces are covered with hair or any other implements,
or those pictured from behind. (The work entitled "Hibiscus" is an uncommon exception.) Many of his still life portraits have a pose which is stared from the front.
His still life portrait can be considered as a typical work of "incomplete
etude". Two works entitled "Falling Ill" portrayed Sato's sick wife. "Complete etude" was to be dedicated
to his familiar being and basically created only in his atelier. However,
the sense of distance is expressed in his wife who was depicted in the
form of "incomplete etude". His still life portrait can be considered as a typical work of the"
The "complete etude" is a common technique, and not particularly
original. Also, among Sato's production, works including "The Youth", "Going to Battle under the Rainbow", "Charge", "At the Atelier" were the mere etudes since each of these was produced also in "opened
picture" as a completed work.
The external character of "incomplete etude" is obvious in Sato's
other works of this kind; these include ones of high completion, close enough to
"opened picture". For example, "On Windy Day", "Drought in Summer", "Virgin Forest"are evidently "incomplete etude", because
the canvas of each is left unpainted at the corner. Still, all these works can
be called "opened pictures".
Sato's works has continuity from internal to external - between "closed
picture" and "opened picture", or between "complete
etude" and "incomplete etude". Hence, the true meaning of
his works cannot be understood if separated individually.
\ 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
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