Portrait of Sadakichi Hartmann

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Portrait of Sadakichi Hartmann

United States, before 1934
Paintings
Oil on canvas
51 1/8 x 41 1/8 in. (129.86 x 104.46 cm)
Purchased with funds provided by Mrs. Spencer Tracy and Family, Marian and John Bowater and Eileen and Dick Foster (M.82.1)
Not currently on public view

Curator Notes

Carl Sadakichi Hartmann (1867-1944) was one of the most astute art historians and critics of the early twentieth century, best remembered for his History of American Art (1901) and perceptive reviews ...
Carl Sadakichi Hartmann (1867-1944) was one of the most astute art historians and critics of the early twentieth century, best remembered for his History of American Art (1901) and perceptive reviews and essays on photography published in Camera Work Always ahead of his times, he edited and published two of the earliest avant-garde magazines in America, wrote reviews for newspapers (often using the pseudonym Sidney Allen), and was instrumental in bringing the symbolist movement to the attention of people in the United States. An eccentric character, Hartmann was involved in such unusual ventures as the production of the first perfume concert in New York in 1902. He spent his most creative years in New York but due to asthma moved to California in the early 1920s. His health continued to deteriorate, worsened by the effects of alcohol. He became involved in the Hollywood circle of actors around John Barrymore and more importantly in the group of artists centered around the home of Margery Winter. Among the artists he met there was Ejnar Hansen, with whom he formed a long and close friendship. Hartmann thoroughly enjoyed posing for artists and during his life was painted and photographed by numerous American and foreign artists. Hansen drew, painted, and sculpted Hartmann many times. This painting is probably his best-known portrait of Hartmann. Hansen was exceptionally perceptive in conveying old age, and in all of his portraits of Hartmann the artist did not balk at making an honest portrayal. Hansen clearly depicted how greatly ill health and dissipation had aged Hartmann. Yet Hansen was also very sympathetic to the man whom many in Los Angeles considered a mere caricature of what he had been. Hansen continued to convey Hartmann’s intelligence, even entitling one of his portraits The Old Philosopher, 1940 (estate of the artist as of 1965). In the museum’s portrait Hartmann thoughtfully sits next to a table full of books, as if he has paused to contemplate what he has just read. With his hand to his head, Hartmann appears in the traditional pose of the thinker. The soft light filtering through the interior and the delicate browns, grays, and oranges create a protective, mellow atmosphere around the tired Hartmann. This portrait won the Foundation of Western Art’s first prize for the best painting of 1934. Generally considered to be one of Hansen’s masterpieces, it demonstrates his conservative interpretation of Cézannesque form, composition, and brushwork.
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About The Era

Four years after the stock market crash of 1929, which triggered the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt initiated the New Deal, a program of domestic reform meant to revive the econ...
Four years after the stock market crash of 1929, which triggered the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt initiated the New Deal, a program of domestic reform meant to revive the economy and alleviate the problem of mass unemployment. Toward these ends, he established various new federal agencies, putting many more people to work to do the increased business of government. Thousands of artists were employed, most through the largest program, the Works Progress Administration. Although the government did not dictate the type of art that was to be produced, it did encourage the use of a representational style and American themes. As a result, most of the art created in the decade prior to World War II was humanistic in orientation.
Artists, writers, and philosophers of the period became obsessed with the social relevance of art. Although a small group of American artists did attack the societal ills of the nation (housing shortages, unemployment) and of the world in general (the rise of fascism and militarism), most adopted a more pragmatic and even positive attitude. American scene painters captured busy city dwellers on streets, in buses, at work, and at play. Occasionally artists infused an element of humor into the pathos of everyday existence, even in scenes that allude to the political disasters of the day. Regionalists were particularly fond of idealizing the past and aggrandizing the present accomplishments of the country. In fact, the myth of America as a country where everyone lives a pastoral, carefree existence emerged with new vigor in the art of the 1930s.
The diversity of the people also emerged as a strong current of social realism. Artists who were accustomed to working in their studios now looked beyond their immediate circles for models. Individuals of various races, professions, or creeds inspired some of the most moving portraits of the century and demonstrated the soul of the people.
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Bibliography

  • About the Era.
  • Moure, Nancy Dustin Wall. Painting and Sculpture in Los Angeles, 1900-1945. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1980.
  • Phil Freshman.  Los Angeles County Museum of Art Report, July 1, 1981-June 30, 1983.  Los Angeles:  Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1984.