Sadakichi Hartmann is the youngest old man I have ever known. Not the adolescent youth of our times and our land where old women wear short skirts and old men dye their hair, but the youth which is eternal, which finds its way to the essential things.
There is a certain timelessness in Sadakichi's youth. He always appears to be of his time. Not because he is interested in the latest fad of the moment which appears to be our American way, but because he makes his way unerringly to the things in his time which have that vital quality in them which keeps them alive and young forever.
The other day I looked through Sadakichi's History of American Art which he wrote in 1900. I discovered there again, in turning over the leaves of his book that he had found and appreciated the true artists of that generation, the men who had been neglected by contemporary critics. I found there appreciation of Thomas Eakins, Albert Pinkham Ryder, and Winslow Homer, men who were then scarcely noticed. I even discovered a long and enthusiastic disquisition on the work of Alfred Stieglitz in photography. Who but Sadakichi Hartmann, among our critics, was writing about Tryon, Dewing, and Steichen in the years of 1893-1900? (And the artists whom he championed did they appreciate his courage and unerring discrimination? Surely not in a sense of material reciprocity.)
Sadakichi is certainly one of the most extraordinary characters which this century has produced. He has made contributions in criticism of the arts, in writing stories and poetry, in his reading of poetry, and in his dancing. Why then is he not better known and appreciated? The answer it seems to me, is simple. He is too much of an original for us Americans. He is one of the remarkable singulars who do not fit into our machine life. Gertrude Stein, who for all the peculiarities of her writing, is one of the wise women of our generation, has stated the case in her "Making of Americans," she says:
"Yes, real singularity we have not made enough of yet so that any other one can really know it. I say vital singularity is as yet a unknown product with us, we who in our habits, dress-suit cases, clothes and hats and ways of thinking, walking, making money, talking, having simple lines in decorating, in ways of reforming, all with a metalic clicking like the typewriting which is our only way of thinking our way of educating our way of learning, all always the same way of doing, all the way down as far as there is any way down inside to us. We all are the same all through us, we never have it to be free inside us. No brother singulars, it is sad here for us, there is no place in an adolescent world for anything eccentric like us, machine making does not turn out queer things like us, they can never make a world to let us be free each one inside us."
I consider Sadakichi Hartmann one of the great singulars of all times!
Read before lecture, "Art by the Few for the Few," at Romany Marie’s, New York, January 22, 1933