In my dusty journals from 25 years ago which majestically appeared along with my recent storage shipment from my home town The City of Angels. I found a little note with a bowler hat I drew and a another hat with the name Sakakichi Hartman. It’s been in my mind to look him up on the net and try to remember why I chose to remember his name. Now I know why! Yay, this is so much fun and fascinating for me to see when there was not internet back then all of this great info now available: but this is just a taste of this clever character.
Carl Sadakichi Hartmann (November 8, 1867 – November 22, 1944) was a critic and poet of German and Japanese descent.
Hartmann, born on the artificial island of Dejima, Nagasaki and raised in Germany, became anAmerican citizen in 1894. An important early participant in modernism, Hartmann was a friend of such diverse figures as Walt Whitman, Stéphane Mallarmé and Ezra Pound. His poetry, deeply influenced by the Symbolists as well as Eastern literature, includes 1904’s Drifting Flowers of the Sea and Other Poems, 1913’s My Rubaiyat and
1915’s Japanese Rhythms. His works of criticism include Shakespeare in Art (1901) and Japanese Art (1904). During the 1910s, Hartmann let himself be crowned King of the Bohemians by Guido Bruno in New York’s Greenwich Village.Hartmann wrote some of the earliest English language haiku. He was also one of the first critics to write about photography, with regular essays in Alfred Steiglitz’s Camera Notes.
Later years found him living in Hollywood and Banning, California. He made a brief appearance in the Douglas Fairbanks film The Thief of Bagdad as the court magician. In 1944, he died while visiting his daughter in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Sadakichi predicts the popularity of photography as an art form:
~ There is no art which affords less opportunity to execute expression than photography. Everything is concentrated in a few seconds, when after perhaps an hours seeking, waiting, and hesitation, the photographer sees the realization of his inward vision, and in that moment he has one advantage over most arts – his medium is swift enough to record his momentary inspiration ~
The DaguerreotypeSadakichi Hartmann
A DAGUERREOTYPE!–There it lies in its case among old papers, letters and curios. A frail encasement of wood covered with black embossed paper. We cannot resist the temptation to open it and glance at it. The clasp is loose; the old case almost falls apart. A weird tapestry- effect on the inside of the lid greets our eye, and opposite it is a gray blurred image set in a gilded frame with an oval or circular opening. What a strange effect. this silvery glimmer and mirror-like sheen! Held towards the light, all substance seems to vanish from the picture; the highlights grow darker than the shadows, and the image of some gentleman in a stock or some lady in bonnet and puffed sleeves appears like a ghostlike vision. Yet, as soon as it is moved away from the light and contemplated from a certain angle, the image reappears, the mere shadow of a countenance comes to life again.
As an art critic, Sadakichi Hartmann wrote the first book on Japanese Art in America, Japanese Art (1904). His chapter on the influence of Japanese Art is intended to explain to the American reader the reasons behind the current rage for Japonisme in Europe:
“European artists have equalled the Japanese in clever grouping, vigorous action, force of expression, passion for form and colour, and even in sketchy figure delineation without the appliance of shadows, but they have never reached that unlimited suggestiveness which even the most insignificant Japanese picture-book contains. This suggestiveness had conquered modern art.
It came at the right time. Too much philosophy had been written in Europe; everything, from the most commonplace to the most sublime, had been collected, catalogued, commented upon, raked up merely for the sake of raking up barren knowledge. It now became necessary to remove the dust and cobwebs that had settled on it, and infuse new life by purifying, remodelling and developing that heap of knowledge. And what could accomplish this better than Japanese art? Its influence was everywhere felt. It called forth, for instance, the short story literature, in which Anderson, Turgenjew (sic), Verga, and the modern French and Scandinavian writers are masters,–a tendency toward brevity and conciseness of expression, which suggests a good deal more than it actually tells. Its law of repetition with slight variation, we can trace in Poe’s poems, the work of the French symbolists, and above all else, in the writings of Maurice Maeterlinck, that quaint combination of Greek, medieval, and Japanese art reminiscences.” 13
Great sources here on Sadakichi:
Reproduced from “The New York Sun”
Sadakichi Hartmann fried eggs with Walt Whitman, discussed poetry with Stephane Mallarme, and drank with John Barrymore, who described him as “a living freak… sired by Mephistopheles out of Madame Butterfly.” W.C. Fields said the critic was “a no-good bum.” But though Hartmann might lift your watch (he was an accomplished pickpocket), his opinion was not for sale.
Born in Japan to a German merchant and his Japanese wife in 1867, he was disowned at 14 and shipped to a Philadelphia great-uncle, an incident that, as Hartmann said, was “…not apt to foster filial piety.” Largely self-educated, he published his first newspaper articles as an adolescent. After meeting Whitman, he wrote an article for the New York Herald quoting the poet’s opinions of other writers. Whitman denounced him for misquotation; Hartmann responded by expanding the article to a pamphlet. At 23, he wrote his first play, “Christ,” which was banned in Boston and publicly burned after Hartmann’s arrest for obscenity. A critic from the original New York Sun, James Gibbons Huneker, called “Christ” “the most daring of all decadent productions.”
Hartmann lost a clerical job with architect Stanford White after publicly describing his employer’s drawings as “to be improved upon only by the pigeons, after the drawings become buildings.” He survived by writing for the New Yorker Staats-Zeitung. His “History of American Art” (1901), a standard textbook still worth reading, analyzed then-unknown painters Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, and Albert Pinkham Ryder, and included America’s first serious discussion of photography as an art form. He apparently published the first American criticism of Japanese verse in 1904, 20 years before the Nouvelle Revue Francaise’s famous haiku competition.
But exhibitionism undermined achievement: When pianist Moriz Rosenthal, who had studied under Liszt, added a series of rapid scales to the Hungarian Rhapsodies at Carnegie Hall, Hartmann roared from the gallery, “Is this necessary?” As ushers tossed him out, Hartmann shouted, “I am a man needed but not wanted.” Hartmann also let himself be crowned King of the Bohemians by charlatan Guido Bruno, the flamboyantly self-promoting proprietor of Bruno’s Garret, a tourist trap at 58 Washington Square South.
In 1916, Hartmann moved to California. He continued writing and played the Court Magician in Douglas Fairbanks Sr.’s “The Thief of Bagdad” (1924) for $250 and a weekly case of whiskey. Amemorable visit to the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art was marked by his loud complaints: van Eyck’s “Virgin and Child” was “painted on his day off” and as for a Rembrandt portrait of his wife Saskia,”…he had begun to lose his mind when he painted it.” The curator bustled up. Hartmann asked, “Where is the washroom?”
“Past that door and to the left.”
“Bring it to me.”
But by World War II, Hartmann was surviving on handouts from admirers. In 1939, New York American editor turned-Hollywood script doctor Gene Fowler was at his office when a studio policeman telephoned that a crazy old man was asking for him. “When I told him he smelled of whisky, he said I ought to be smelling his genius.” Fowler, who knew of Hartmann, went to the studio gates. The shabbily dressed critic, nearly 6 feet tall and weighing 132 pounds, announced, “Where I come from and where I go doesn’t matter. For I am Sadakichi Hartmann…You may live another century, Fowler, but you will never meet another son of the gods like me. You have something to drink?”
Fowler stammered, “As a matter of fact, I’m not drinking and -”
“What have your personal habits to do with my destiny?”
Hartmann talked Fowler into writing his biography, advising him,”…do not fall in love with your subject – in love with my wonderful character and genius. It will blind you, and your writing will suffer.” When an accident interrupted the work (Fowler wrote, “The car, with me folded inside it, turned over three times… I suffered two split vertebrae, three cracked ribs, a skull injury, and wrenched knees. Otherwise I was as good as new”), Hartmann complained, “Fowler is using this … to avoid becoming famous. He suddenly realizes that I am much too big a subject for his limited talents.”
After Hartmann collapsed on a bus (he said, “I have symptoms of immortality”), Fowler had him examined. Among other things, the doctor suggested relieving the old man’s hernia, which then required orchiectomy. One friend urged Hartmann to say farewell to the glands. “They have served their purpose,” he said, “and undoubtedly merit an honorable retirement.”
“Ghouls!” cried Hartmann. He turned on the doctor. “Why don’t you men of medicine do something worthwhile instead of castrating a genius?”
Barrymore agreed. “After all,” he said, “it is hard to cast aside comrades of happier times.”