(2) Why wasn't a self-portrait pictured by Sato?
In his own painting collection, Sato has set independent subdivision of
"the self-portrait of a man" titled "Don Quixote": this is not his self-portrait though.
"Don Quixote" expresses part of his way of life. To borrow his
own words, he entrusted himself, who seeks the representational realism
which can be considered as outmoded classic, to this object. While the
self was the sole most important concern for Sato, even "Don Quixote",
whom he had entrusted himself to, was pictured only for a period of time;
the lack of self-portraits is a matter of vital importance.
The key to solve this mystery is in the nature of "opened picture". In pure realism the pictured object must be a world: it must be a human focused on his/her facial expression in "closed picture", and the external world continued from the canvas in "opened
The canvas of a pure realistic painter must be a transparent glass. "To
watch without a filter", Sato's way of observation, indicates the
same. Since telescope and microscope are kinds of glasses, they are not
contrary to the viewpoint of realism. Even though this is true, as these devices
are different from the humans' visual ability, they desecrate the pureness
of realism. For a pure realist Sato, the universe or cells are the objects
he must not draw because they cannot be directly observed by the naked
is the antithesis of canvas as a vitreous body in the painter's eye: it is the
only devise that makes it possible to see what human eyes cannot see. The human
eyes and mirror always face each other, and never assimilate.
In order to produce a self-portrait, the canvas must become a mirror. However,
the world reflected on the mirror is an inner reflection that lost continuity
with the external world, even though it is a reflection of the external
world. From the painter's view, it is a symmetrically fabricated world.
The fabricated image would duplicate the world, which violates the idea
of pure realism pursuing a single world.
face of a human was a crucial theme for Sato. If the most important theme
violates his picture philosophy, or pure realism, then it must not be pictured.
Thus, the absence of self-portrait is the consequence of Sato's
important picture style, which accounts for the fact that the cosmos and cells
cannot be depicted in his pictures.
However, the mirror within his sight is clearly drawn. In the series of "Maja", a special series of female nude images, the mirror is pictured as an
object of great significance.
For Sato, the human figure represented a world. This world is rendered
with the idea created by brain, and bones and flesh are nothing more than
the teguments. The human body without the idea would be an object for simple
still life picture. Still life picture detached from world would not become
a pictorial theme for Sato. However, since a person's idea cannot be
exteriorized, he continues to picture portraits as the embodiment of internal
But as it is, there was one existence who could exteriorize the idea -
himself. What he actually perceived and imagined were concrete to him:
so reproduction of the idea on canvas is the same as embodiment of it.
In other words, all his works are the exteriorization of his idea. Sato's
self-portrait is equivalent to the general term for all of his works. His
constant act of painting is, namely, producing a self-portrait. Then, there
is no need for him to produce a self-portrait in particular.
Sato's canvas is the retina of his eyes; therefore he himself was not included
in the frame. As repeatedly mentioned, his aim is to picture a single world,
either the external universe or his subjectivity: the external universe
existed in the back of canvas, while his subjectivity did on its surface.
Sato's canvas is also a partition between the real world and the
abstract world. The idea on the surface of canvas and the universe on its back
cannot fuse. If such event occurs, the world would be duplicated and the base
of pure realism would collapse. This partition may occasionally slide towards
Sato's idea, but keeps his idea and the universe separate.
Even though the idea and the universe are different from each other, if given continuity and converged in a
single world, they would not go against pure realism. Sato called the idea
in such case "imagination". He remarked that "There is no
difference between the product of imagination and the actual existing object",
or "Even if I don't use my imagination, through accurate reproduction
of what I saw, I can draw something better". His statements showed
his clear-cut notion on how "imagination" should be.
In case that the idea and the universe overlap while retaining their difference
and uniqueness, Sato called such idea "illusion". In his theory,
"illusion" is only a psychological theme; "Imagination",
however, would be the most essential pictorial theme. According to Sato,
he did not feel tired when he was on the boundary line between "imagination"
and "illusion" to distinguish these two; and it was his intuition
that taught him "imagination".
Since the canvas of Sato's picture was the retina in his eyes, he was always
a subject to see, and never became an object to be seen. He was at all
times a sovereign to the objects of his pictures, which attributed to his
absolute faithfulness to the purity of realism. The conspicuousness of
Sato's works is illustrated in the fuse of this thorough activity and passivity
in a single character.
Among others, "Don Quixote" has a strong implication as self-portrait.
Since the work itself was a self-portrait of Sato, there was no need for
him to be particularly conscious of this genre. "Don Quixote"
was at first drawn as a simple translation of a story into a picture. It
was when he later saw, and had interest in the Don Quixote played by famous
Russian singer Shalyapin, that Sato's "Don Quixote" was resumed.
Having seen the photograph of Shalyapin's Don Quixote in the movie, Sato
convinced that he could depict Don Quixote based on realism.
Just then Sato had an inspiration. He found similarity between this theme
and his own way of life striving to establish realism when there were no
such movements in Japan, and reorganized it as a self-portrait. More yet,
the consciousness of self-projection wasn't so strong in his first work,
"Broken Spear". Don Quixote still remained at the level of a story.
This was self-explanatory by the saddle of the horse which Don Quixote rode, Sato said. This saddle, the red Persian carpet style with luxurious embroidery was "too much like fairy tale" (Sato's word) for him to project himself. His self-projection gradually developed as time passes by, and along with Don Quixote advanced in age, the luxurious saddle changed to plain skin.
The distinctive feature of "Don Quixote" lies in its picture
form. Most of this series are created as "opened picture". "Opened
picture" by Sato is a clipping of the external universe; the object
to be drawn is the great nature, such as wilderness or sea.
Sato's pure realism was to store a single world in a single piece
of work. Therefore, in "opened picture", the wilderness or the
sea by itself must be pictured. The individual is the representative of
idea, or internal world.
If an individual is added, the external universe and an internal idea would
be in the same picture, destroying the oneness of the world. The external
universe at the back of a canvas was pictured as if exuding onto its surface,
while the internal idea on its surface was made transparent as a reflection
of the painter's eyes.
The universe and the idea come into contact on the canvas, but they never
fuse. These two worlds approach each other to the limit, maintaining the
oneness of the picture's world.
Although only one of either the universe at the back or the idea
on the surface is pictured on the canvas, these two are almost in contact with
each other; it enables Sato's picture to perform a stunt to have a duality, in
parallel with a single world.
if wilderness and human figures are pictured at the same time as "opened
picture", two concrete worlds would emerge on the canvas. This would lead
to the duplication of the world, destroy the originality of Sato's picture, and
finally situate the pure realism in danger.
Sato said "It isn't possible to depict outside and inside at the same
time as a means of expression. Picturing inside and outside at the same
time would be the surrealism". It is a lifeline of Sato to defend a single world stubbornly in
a work frame.
theme of "Don Quixote" was so important in its composition that he
stepped into the crisis at his own will. For Sato, it is himself that counts as
much as that.
In regard to the works resembling Don Quixote, there are some that depict
horse racing produced in the first half of the 1990's by the proposal of his picture dealer.
Here arises a question why did Sato - a painter who strictly narrowed the
object from the viewpoint of pure realism and sieved the composition through
a keen sense of beauty - drew the horse racing in which he had no interest.
Among horse racing pictures, "Training on the Morning", "Running a Race on the Dirt Course", " The Dirt Course is Bad, and the Lawn
Course is Bad, too" - are "closed pictures". These can be classified as "incomplete etude". Two pieces of "Young Steeds Gallop" and "Galloping" can be called "opened picture", because the canvases are seen unpainted in some parts of the ground and the distant view, leaving a trace of "incomplete etude".
world to be drawn must be only one at all times in pure realism, if the object
is given an independent world, the picture would be considered as "closed
picture"; in case of "opened picture" though, its
setting must involve universal extension. The space of racetrack is too
narrow for "opened picture".
In the horse race series, jockeys are necessarily depicted. That
is probably because the picture of horses alone is not very expressive of
deep idea, and would become a still life picture.
Jockeys are drawn as an object similar to a sign, but are not provided
enough significance to represent one abstract world. Also the jockeys are
always rendered as a group of people; this is not desirable from the viewpoint
of pure realism, because it has an effect of splitting a single world.
The key to solve this riddle is concealed in the relevance with Don Quixote.
Don Quixote is also riding on a horse in all pictures of the series. Sato's
overt self-projection is exhibited here with overwhelming depiction of
the utmost concluded world. This is the very typical work of pure realism.
Suppose this was transformed into the
horse racing pictures, a group of jockeys can be considered as a counterpart of
Don Quixote. If so, the jockeys are mere pretenders of Don Quixote hidden in
the back. In this notion, these works are categorized as excellent pure
If the horse racing series conceals Don Quixote inside, it depicts only one figure in a small racetrack. Then, it is quite understandable why the majority of these pictures come under "closed picture" of "incomplete etude".
\ Written, summarized and translated by Taketoshi Murayama@\
Original translation is rewritten by Michiko Takahashi Christofis \
This text must not be translated into any other language without author's
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