Sometimes I think that everyone who had a camera photographed Sadakichi Hartmann. The author of The Valiant Knights of Dauguerre was himself photogenic, and not only when sitting still. A Chinese prince in The Thief of Baghdad (1924), Hartmann played opposite the great scene stealer Douglas Fairbanks. The man who wrote plays and acted the theater impresario was also known for his dancing, an eccentric blend of the modern and the oriental. For one to whom the camera could be so kind, his opinions on photography had pith.
“What artistic photography needs most is a Steinlen, who has succeeded in expressing in his weekly illustrations for the Gil Blas supplement – as valuable as any Japanese wood cuts – the heat, the hurry, the vexations, the lurid excitements and frivolous graces, the tragedies and comedies of Parisian life, and in a more perfect manner than Zola has in his long-drawn series of novels.” - from A Plea for the Picturesqueness of New York (1900).
“I have always endorsed Heine’s defense of plagiarism, that it is permissible to steal entire columns and porticos from a temple, providing the new edifice one erects with their aid is great enough to warrant such violent proceedings. The history of art had proven this somewhat surprising statement to be true.” - from On Plagiarism And Imitation (1900). Here, Hartmann also praised Stieglitz’s The Net Mender, a photograph that was made with a painting by Max Liebermann.in mind. :
On the 1910 Photo-Secession exhibition at the Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo that introduced the movement to a national audience: “An ensemble so exceptional, aside of all actualities, teaches a lesson of deeper significance.” “Like the delicious odor in some mirrored cabinet that lingers indefinitely for years, this spirit will not fade. It will be remembered long after individual efforts have lost their immediate usefulness. The few masterpieces will remain, the rest will be forgotten, but the spirit will continue to remain an active force, and produce fresh impressions of light and tone, of form and grace.” - from What Remains (1911)
Hartmann delivered his aesthetic judgments with a sarcasm that may explain his affinity for the subject of his finest volume, The Whistler Book (1910). “Hartmann may be capricious and malicious, and rather careless at times, but he is, after all, the only critic we have who knows a good picture when he sees it and is not afraid of expressing his opinion,” the painter E.E. Simmons admitted.
“With Whistler this conception of beauty was largely a sense for color, the realization of some dream in black and silvery grey, in pale gold or greenish blues. Color was to him the island in the desert which he had to seek, unable to rest until he had found it. He saw life in color visions and his subjects were merely means to express them.” – from White Chrysanthemums, Camera Work, No. 5, January 1904
On the elongated figures of totemic women in Thomas Wilmer Dewing’s painting:s “Their ideal is to be found probably between the Antique and the Early Renaissance….They lead, indeed, but a life of reflection, they seem to be melancholy without reasons, merely because pain is poetical. When Dewing paints them, he takes good care to avoid expressing even a reflection of the genuinely devout feeling of the Middle Ages as Rossetti or Henri Martin do….” – November 1893
On Augustus Saint-Gaudens: “His principal merit is that he has succeeded, in his statues and bas-relief – probably nobody has excelled him in that – in rendering our modern costume picturesque in a realistic as well as highly artistic manner, for this, if for nothing else, he will live in the history of art.” – October 1898
– March 1897.
On Arthur Bowen Davies: “His drawing and lawless composition reminds one of Degas…” – January 1894. Hartmann, also a practicing pastellist, recognized the strength of composition in pictures by Davies, Degas, and Ryder where others saw carelessness, a failing he understood only too well from his own need to turn his talents into cash.
On Puvis de Chavannes: “ ..if one is bent on classifying Chavannes, one might term him a colorist of striking originality; he was really a fanatic of color, who knew of no restriction except the limits of color itself. While others endeavor to express the brilliancy and violence of colors, Chavannes solely strove to fathom the psychological qualities of color, the poetry and sentiment it is capable of, in short, in musical charms.”
To Hartmann, Puvis de Chavannnes was Liszt in colors, an artist who, like the virtuoso pianist/composer was ‘striking’ as a color strikes the nerves.”
“His aim was to express music in painting, caring only for decorative effects. His decorative cynicism explored the innermost soul of painting. in trying to make painting musical, just as Berlioz and Wagner endeavored to render music pictorial.” – November 1898. In a comparison of Japanese and western art, Hartmann singled out Dwight William Tryon, along with Puvis de Chavannes, as successfully integrating Japanese aesthetics in their work.
“My particular favorite among modern portrait painters – although he is little known in the vocation – is Bastien-Lepage. Of all the great naturalists who have enriched painting since Courbet and Manet seized the palette. Bastien-Lepage was the greatest, because his naturalism disdained all pose, always possessed simplicity and dignity, and still was something beyond faithfulness to nature…” Hartmann added that neither the Greeks nor the Japanese practiced portraiture.
1. Bessie Buermann - Portrait of Sadakichi Hartmann, 1902, Center for Photography, University of California - Riverside.
2. Karl Struss - Boardwalk.Long Island, 1910, Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth.
3. Alfred Stieglitz - The net Mender, 1894, Art Institute of Chicago.
4. Gertrude Kasebier - The Road To Rome, 1903, camera Work.
5. James McNeill Whistler - Blue and Gold: Rose Azalea, c. 189-1895, Freer Gallery, Washington, D.C.
6 James McNeill Whistler - Grand Canal - Amsterdam: Nocturne, c. 1883, Freer Gallery, Wasshington, D.C.
7. Thomas Wilmer Dewing - Morning, 1879, Delaware Art Museum, Baltimore.
8. Augustus Saint-Gaudens - Clover Adams Memorial, Rock Creek Park, Washington D.C., courtesy of U.S. National Park Service.
9. Albert Pinkham Ryder - Toilers Of The Sea, c. 188-1885, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC.
10. Arthur Bowen Davies - Mysterious Barge, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC.
11. Puvis de Chavannes - Benefits of Peace, 1890, National Gallery of Art, Ottawa.
12. Jules Bastien Lepage -Ripening Wheat, 1884, Santa Barbara Museum of Art.