The pure realism of Sato who felt strong about dual world as in the external universe and the internal idea balances on literalism and symbolism. In the literalism there is danger that flows into simplicity, on the
other hand, in the symbolism the temptation of the authoritarianism is
accompanied with it. While stretching over both sides brings the advantage
to put both of the merits together, there is danger that weak sides from
both could happen at the same time. In this chapter, we will analyze and
explain the concerning points of both ideas on Sato's works.
It is possible to say the literal symbols are the product of symbolism through the technique of literalism. Because
he was born with the outstanding capability to capture images, he was able
to correctly reproduce all images he saw with his own eyes ever since he
was very young.
It seemed natural that Sato focused on realism during the boyhood when
he was working on to be a painter. However, since Sato had the clear internal
world in himself, he was much more introspective than others, while being
one of the reappearance artists who was faithful to the object like general
On Sato's works, it seems like there is a possibility that the elements
from the fantasticism and the classicism might be confused, deviating from the frame of the orthodox
realism. And this element will become the important element to make Sato
stand out from the other plain literal painters.
The reason that Sato did not become one of the fantasticism or the classicism
painters is that he acquired education and the techniques on paintings
in the Japanese Empire. The Japanese Empire was the child of the modern European spirit and its
government mind was prescribed by the modernism of Western Europe.
The European modernism had a big conversion of the value from the Christianity
during the Medieval Time to the world of the humanism. However, Christianity
was in fact the treasure box full of valuable symbols.
Therefore the modernism was the movement that first tried to attack these
treasures and disposed them. However, in Europe, instead of Christianity,
another symbol group such as myths existed in large quantities in the classic
world such as Greek and Rome, .
Because a person can project the self onto this place easily, it was possible
for the modernism to have a peculiar substituting symbol system.
Christianity contributes rich symbols to the fantasticism, and the Greek
myths provide them to the classicism.
However, in Japan, the Buddhist symbol group was destroyed by the import of the modernism. However the Buddhism lost its power in the Tokugawa era (1603-1867）, and the power of symbol had been already weakened. The Shintoism and Confucianism were well, however, it is difficult to say that they had a strong impact
on forming various symbols in the history of Japan.
Therefore, Sato was not lucky enough to have tools and the right environment where he might have received temptation from symbols. And it seems like because of the previous fact he could not make his talent grow toward the fantasticism and the classicism. Therefore, the strong introversion of Sato looked for the unique symbol of his own. The sense of loss and craving became the source of the "The Wilderness Series" of Sato later on.
By the way, symbol holds sociality through the religion, but the symbols
that an individual created are kind of the cryptography which is understood
only by the creator. Under such a condition, it will be separated from
the influence and the persuasiveness of the original symbolism.
Because the Japanese Empire had a poor system in unique traditional symbols,
Sato was alienated from the course of the symbolism which brings colorful
expression. It is possible to say that Sato's work started to move on toward
realism in the aspect of the thought by the social environment of that
However, Sato who took the thoroughgoing literalism on painting techniques
since his boyhood, he simply did not use Oriental restoring symbols. The
Oriental paintings are the formed paintings but they started to part from
the style of precise reproduction.
According to Sato, the paintings in Japanese style are made up of only lines. Since Sato put significant importance on lines
that creates three-dimensional space, the Oriental symbolism never satisfied
Sato's desire in terms of techniques. It is possible to say that the Japanese
art society was not developed enough for a great painter Sato.
Therefore, there are only one certain amount of appreciators and critics
who are suitable for the artistic level of the country. Therefore, it is
possible to say these people do not have tolerance to see true image of
painter Teruo Sato. This is such a great tragedy for an artist.
In Japan Sato was fully shut out from encountering picturesque symbols.
In this way, Sato was forced to face to the realism from the both aspects
of the technique and the thought.
When talking about painter Teruo Sato, the important thing is, as described
in the previous chapter, the reason that the owner of such a thaumaturgic
technique who could draw everything perfectly chose only one certain
group of objects for his painting theme. This decision process is the important
part of his work.
To specify what is covering up this process that exists behind the mysterious
veil of the personality of the painter will become the fortune which will
be valuable to the painters and the general art appreciators in the upcoming
Here, we enter the analysis of the individual work of Sato once more from
the viewpoint of the person theory as contrary to the work part. (In "The Sleeping People at the Underground
Passage", because few works have been actually titled, we put a special number
from 1 to 36 on each work.)
It is said that everything about an artist comes out in his/her maiden
work and for Sato it was the enormous dessin group that he had been painting for about 10 years named "The Sleeping People at the Underground
Passage". About 42 - 3 among them were published at the exhibition and other places.
In "The Sleeping People at the Underground
Passage" what later becomes the scaffolding of Sato's paintings was already developed
and shown in it clearly. First, the group of the vagrants was individualized
thoroughly. As for the creation of the portraits, the sense of Sato, such
as the attitude of him that he could be only when directly confronting
the object, was brewed in these early stages.
In the later works of Sato, a live person on a painting always exists alone
and all the other collection of people are dead. The vagrants in "The Sleeping People at the Underground
Passage" have two characters of life and death. When drawing a single vagrant,
Sato felt a life coming out of the person, however, when it comes to a
group of vagrants (Figures1, 2 and 3), he did not feel the life at all.
The underground passage which is "the ground" of the composition in "The Sleeping People at the Underground
Passage" is hardly pictured. The person who is "the figure" of the composition is clearly taken out and pictured. In that case,
the importance is put on the head, the upper part of body, the lower part
of the body, the whole body image, in this order accordingly.
The head or the upper part of body is precisely pictured by a strong contrast; on the other hand, the lower part of the body is significantly weak. (Figures 4, 5, 6 "Family", 7 "An Asthmatic", 8, 9, top of 10, and 11)
However when the whole body is pictured, a contrast is weakened as a whole.
(Below of 10, 12, 13, and 14) There are some works lack the lower part of the body. (Figures 15, 16, 17, and 18)
Or, even if the whole body is precisely pictured, there are some works where the lower part of the body is intentionally excluded from the composition. (Figures 19, 20, 21, and 22) Sato seemed to think that the root of the life of a human being gathers around the head. The vagrant whose head is painted clearly is considered alive. In the previous chapter, putting emphasis on the head is analyzed from the viewpoint of indication of the single world. However, it could be captured by two characters of life and death as well. In the "Spring" and "The Wilderness Series" of later works of Sato, the reason there are no head with the stiff comes from the same idea.
(As for the lack of the body parts was usually an accidental
product owing to the model who had to move away during the sketch. However,
it is possible that the definitions that were defined later on as we wrote
down here recurred into Sato's mind when these paintings were created as
These two paintings, 23 and 24 are the ones which only a head is drawn. These are the typical paintings
of "existence of life, which lost its social values," (words
from his collection of paintings). The intentional omission of human body
parts may symbolize approaching death.
As for the ones which have an outline but the bright and dark
sides are not clearly drawn (this is limited to the lower parts of the
bodies in any case), may the erosion of the death and the isolation from
the reality be symbolized?
On Sato's works about human bodies, the joints seem to show an important
function. When the joints bend very sharply, the power of its life
is strong; it attenuates as the angle widens. Horizontal surface equals
Therefore, it is possible to say that the death is creeping behind the
person whose legs are stretched. However, in "The Sleeping People at the Underground Passage" there is no example of anyone whose arms are stretched. Because the death
is so straight on these people, it is seen like that arms are not
drawn from the beginning. (Refer to Figure 25) Furthermore the paintings that have joints of limbs hidden under the clothes show the remarkable stagnation of the life activity.
This fact is shown in the figures 15, 26 "Mother and Daughter", 27 "Oil", 28 "Mother and Child", 29. Also, those three works of the crowd (Figures 1, 2, and 3) are the same, as well.
There is a deep meaning in the front and in the back of a painting. In
the back, it seems that the consciousness of the painter acts on it as
if he is desperate to know the object widely. On the other hand, it seems
like, in the front of a painting, the painter shows personal interest to
On each figure 6 "Family", 11, 28 "Mother and Child", 30, in "The Sleeping People at the Underground Passage", the head which is considered as a center of life is facing the back. In
fact, the ones that strongly show this characteristic, which have heads
that are turned back very sharply, have titles.
On the other hand, on figures 4, 5, 7 "An Asthmatic", and top of 14, 19, 27 "Oil" have heads that are facing forward. The ones that have heads facing
forwards at a very sharp angle also have titles. There is a possibility
that the purpose that is mentioned above is unconsciously hidden on these
As for the paintings where the setting of underground passage, which is "the ground" of the scene, is completely eliminated the lines that obviously emphasize its unpainted setting are clearly drawn around the head. There are two kinds of ways to emphasize this: one is the use of shadow which is created by the head, the other one is the objects that show the existence of the wall and the floor. It stands out by the existence of "empty space" ("Ma" in Japanese) where nothing is pictured.
From the viewpoint of the previous part, this may be a herald of the etude. Now, we will look at it from a different angle.
On the religious paintings supernatural holiness is shown by enthusiastically expressing things which do not
exist. However, in the technique of realism, it could be possible to say that
the un-natural popularity is shown by "empty space". Then, on
each paintings figures 5, 10, 11, 12, 13, the top of 14, and 31 distinctive shadow is drawn at their heads. Also, in the figures 6 "Family", 27 "Oil", and 28 "Mother and Child", the shadow around the head is most visibly seen, while shadows on the
other parts are drawn normally. Sato may be symbolizing the power of life
of human beings by placing shadow around the head which is the
center of the life when viewed from the standpoint of realism.
Such a shadow is sometimes seen on the legs in addition to the head. In the figures 4, 7 "An Asthmatic", and 32, the contrast of the shadow on the legs is weak compared to that of the
head. Also the lines are faded. This is symbolizing the fact that even
if the desire to live is dynamic, the realistic basis that is supporting
it is feeble.
In each paintings, figures 21, 22, 26 "Mother and Daughter", 27 "Oil", and 29, the whole body that is surrounded by shadow can be said that its whole
existence is separated from the surrounding perimeter.
The individual vagrants are drawn based on a straight line. However, a
group of vagrants is not. For example, figure 1 consists of gentle curves, figure 2 is like branches, and figure 3 is placed on the teardrop-type diagram.
If Sato was selecting specific objects among the countless vagrant by the
intention and the sense of beauty as mentioned above, and if he was setting
symbols precisely when drawing them, it is possible to say that he had
already begun building the unique symbol system in the maiden work. However,
these symbols are purely personal and they also lack sociality, the hard
part is that its significance and functionality are not easily understood
by the general public.
Sato probably was creating the composition which was mentioned above while
capturing an object like professional. Sato usually complained when working
on something he does not feel like doing by using the expression "the
end at elbow", however, is it possible that he might
have sensed the precious meeting with the objects which touched the whole
soul inside him at the underground passage in Ueno (the north-east of Tokyo)?
― Written, summarized and translated by Taketoshi Murayama ―
― Original translation is rewritten by Tomoko Daijo McLean
This text must not be translated into any other languages without author's
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