Beaumont Newhall

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Beaumont Newhall
BornJune 22, 1908
Lynn, Massachusetts, United States
DiedFebruary 26, 1993 (1993-02-27) (aged 84)
Alma materHarvard University
Known forPhotography, writing
Notable workThe History of Photography
SpouseNancy Newhall

Beaumont Newhall (June 22, 1908 – February 26, 1993) was an American curator, art historian, writer, photographer, and the second director of the George Eastman Museum.[1] His book The History of Photography[2] remains one of the most significant accounts in the field and has become a classic photographic history textbook.[3] Newhall was the recipient of numerous awards and accolades for his accomplishments in the study of photo history.[4]

Childhood and education[edit]

Beaumont Newhall was born in Lynn, Massachusetts, United States, on June 22, 1908. He was the son of Herbert W. Newhall and Alice Lillia Davis.[5] Some of his earliest childhood memories revolved around photography. He recalled watching his mother in her darkroom as she developed her own glass plate images as well as dipping his fingers into the chemical trays to see what they tasted like.[6]

Although Newhall wanted to study film and photography in college, the subjects were not being taught as separate disciplines when he enrolled at Harvard University. Instead, he chose to study art history and museum studies.

While at Harvard, Newhall was greatly influenced by his instructor Paul J. Sachs.[7] In 1932, after receiving his master's degree from Harvard,.[8] Sachs helped Newhall obtain a position as lecturer at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Philadelphia.

Newhall continued his graduate studies at the Institute of Art and Archaeology of the University of Paris, and the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. He worked briefly for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Massachusetts branch of the Public Works Administration. Because of financial difficulties during the Depression, Newhall was not able to devote himself to his doctoral studies, and eventually accepted a position at the Museum of Modern Art as a stable source of income.

Museum of Modern Art[edit]

Newhall's career at the Museum of Modern Art began in 1935 when he became its librarian.[9] In 1937, he was invited by Alfred Barr Jr., the director of MoMA, to develop the first comprehensive retrospective of photographic works.[10] The exhibition that Newhall mounted was pivotal in securing photography's place within the arts. Its accompanying catalog, The History of Photography, was the first account of the first 100 years of photographic history that gave equal credit to its technical virtues, as well as its value as an art form. Lewis Mumford in his review in The New Yorker, noted that Newhall, "who assembled the photographs and instruments for the Museum, did an admirable job in ransacking the important collections for historic examples" and praised his catalogue as "a very comprehensive and able piece of exposition; one of the best short critical histories I know in any language."[11][12] The show toured 10 other American Museums and the catalogue long outlived the exhibition to become a significant resource.[3]

In 1940, Newhall became the first curator of MoMA's photography department and decisively began collecting for the Museum,[13] starting with the work of László Moholy-Nagy. Newhall married Nancy Wynne, a notable photography critic who worked in his place as curator at MoMA during his service in World War II,[14] in which his rank was First Lieutenant. He was posted to Italy and North Africa as a photo-interpreter of aerials taken over enemy territory,[15] and then returned to America to train others.

In 1946 Newhall was invited by Josef Albers to lecture on the history of photography at Black Mountain College. He resigned from the Museum in 1947 after he found that Edward Steichen was to direct the Photography Department over him, while he was to be curator. Nevertheless, he accepted a request to contribute an introduction to the MoMA exhibition catalogue for Henri Cartier-Bresson.[16]

George Eastman Museum[edit]

Newhall received a Guggenheim Fellowship and used it to start a new edition of his The History of Photography, and also began research into the history of the daguerreotype in America, where its use had continued for a decade after its obsolescence in Europe. From 1948 was appointed curator of the George Eastman Museum, housed in the former residence of George Eastman, in Rochester, New York, to 1958, and was its director until 1971. While at the Eastman Museum, Newhall was responsible for amassing one of the largest photographic collections in the world. He was joined there by Minor White who took over editorship of Image,[17] the magazine Newhall issued from the Museum, which later passed on to Nathan Lyons who turned it into a respected quarterly. Newhall published books through the Museum including Edward Weston's Daybooks, co-published with Horizon press; Photographers on Photography edited by Lyons; and on Aaron Siskind. He served as an honorary trustee of the Eastman House until his death.

Educator, late career and death[edit]

Throughout his career, Newhall taught the history of photography and photography at institutions including the University of Rochester, Rochester Institute of Technology, State University of New York at Buffalo and at the Salzburg Seminar in American Studies in Austria.

In his late career after retiring from the George Eastman Museum he was appointed professor at the University of New Mexico in 1972 and named Professor Emeritus in 1984.

Beaumont Newhall died in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on February 26, 1993.[1] He was predeceased by his wife Nancy on July 7, 1974 from injuries she sustained when struck by a falling tree on the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park.[7]

Library and Archives[edit]

The Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, California houses the Beaumont and Nancy Newhall papers. The private research library of Beaumont and Nancy Newhall was donated to the College of Santa Fe (later Santa Fe University of Art and Design) in New Mexico before its closure in 2018.[18]

Cookery writer[edit]

Newhall wrote 234 weekly food articles in his column “Epicure Corner,” for the local New York paper, the Brighton-Pittsford Post from 1956–69.[19] A collection of his writings and recipes was published in 2009 as Beaumont's Kitchen.[20]




  1. ^ a b Hagen, Charles (1993-02-27). "Beaumont Newhall, a Historian Of Photography, Is Dead at 84". The New York Times. p. 127. Retrieved 2010-01-24.
  2. ^ Newhall, Beaumont (1982) [1937]. The History of Photography: From 1839 to the present (5th ed.). New York: Museum of Modern Art. ISBN 978-0870703812.
  3. ^ a b Warren, Lynne (2006), Encyclopedia of twentieth-century photography, Routledge, ISBN 978-1-57958-393-4
  4. ^ Goldberg, Vicki (1993-08-15). "Depth of Field". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  5. ^ Newhall, Beaumont. "Massachusetts, Birth Records, 1840-1915". New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts (as re-printed on {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |url= (help)
  6. ^ Newhall, Beaumont (1993). Focus: Memoirs of a LIfe in Photography (1st ed.). Boston, Toronto, London: Little, Brown and Company. pp. 9–10. ISBN 0-8212-1904-9.
  7. ^ a b Cooper, Thomas Joshua, 1946-; Hill, Paul, 1941-; Camera (Lucerne) (1979), Dialogue with photography, Farrar, Straus, Giroux, ISBN 978-0-374-13893-6{{citation}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ Michael Baker Finding aid for the Beaumont and Nancy Newhall papers, 1843-1993, The Online Archive of California
  9. ^ Newhall, Focus, p. 39
  10. ^ Beaumont Newhall Papers in The Museum of Modern Art Archives
  11. ^ Robert Mumford, The New Yorker, p.39-40, April 3, 1937
  12. ^ Robert Mumford; Robert Wojtowicz (Editor) (2007), Mumford on Modern Art in the 1930sHardcover (1st ed.), University of California Press, ISBN 978-0-520-24858-8 {{citation}}: |author2= has generic name (help)
  13. ^ Newhall, Focus, p. 64
  14. ^ Edkins, Diana E. (1976). "A Tribute to Nancy Newhall". Untitled. 10: 5.
  15. ^ *Beaumont Newhall (1969), Airborne camera the world from the air and outer space, New York Hastings House, ISBN 978-0-8038-0335-0
  16. ^ *Cartier-Bresson, Henri; Kirstein, Lincoln, 1907-; Newhall, Beaumont, 1908-; Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.) (1964), Photographs by Cartier-Bresson, Cape{{citation}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  17. ^ George Eastman House; International Museum of Photography and Film; International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House (1952), "Image", Image: The Magazine of George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House], ISSN 0536-5465
  18. ^ Tripp Stelnicki, 'Questions loom over fate of art collections as Santa Fe University of Art and Design closes', The New Mexican May 3, 2018
  19. ^ Newhall, Beaumont (1993), Focus: memoirs of a life in photography (1st ed.), Little, Brown, ISBN 978-0-8212-1904-1
  20. ^ Chickey, David; Himes, Darius; and Hurley, Joanna (eds.). Beaumont's Kitchen. Lessons on food, life, and photography with Beaumont Newhall. (Radius Books, Santa Fe, NM; 2009) p.  11-12. ISBN 978-1-934435-06-9.
  21. ^ "The Cultural Award of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Photographie (DGPh)". Deutsche Gesellschaft für Photographie e.V.. Accessed 7 March 2017.
  22. ^ "Beaumont Newhall". International Photography Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2022-07-25.

External links[edit]