Beaumont Newhall

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Beaumont Newhall
Born June 22, 1908
Lynn, Massachusetts, United States
Died February 26, 1993 (1993-02-27) (aged 84)
Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA
Nationality American
Alma mater Harvard University
Known for Photography, writing
Notable work The History of Photography
Spouse(s) Nancy 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.[citation needed] Newhall was the recipient of numerous awards and accolades for his accomplishments in the study of photo history.[3]

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.[4] 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.[5]

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. In 1931, after receiving his master's degree from Harvard, 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.[6] In 1937, he was invited by Alfred Barr Jr., the director of MOMA, to develop the first comprehensive retrospective of photographic works. 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.

In 1940, Newhall became the first curator of MOMA's photography department.[7]

George Eastman Museum[edit]

Newhall served as curator of the George Eastman Museum (then George Eastman House) from 1948 to 1958, and its director from 1958 to 1971. While at the Eastman Museum, Newhall was responsible for amassing one of the greatest photographic collections in the world.

The Newhall Library[edit]

Beaumont Newhall married Nancy Wynne, a notable photography critic who worked in his place as curator at MOMA during his service in World War II.[8]

The private research collection of Beaumont and Nancy Newhall was donated to the College of Santa Fe (now Santa Fe University of Art and Design) and has become the core of the college's Beaumont and Nancy Newhall Library.[citation needed]

Cookery writer[edit]

Newhall wrote a weekly food column for the local New York paper, the Brighton-Pittsford Post from 1956–69.[citation needed] A collection of his writings and recipes was published in 2009 as Beaumont's Kitchen.[9]


  • 1970: The Cultural Award from the German Society for Photography (DGPh), with L. Fritz Gruber[10]


  1. ^ 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. ^ Goldberg, Vicki (1993-08-15). "Depth of Field". The New York Times. The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-10-25. 
  4. ^ Newhall, Beaumont. "Massachusetts, Birth Records, 1840-1915". New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts (as re-printed on 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ Newhall, Focus, p. 39
  7. ^ Newhall, Focus, p. 64
  8. ^ Edkins, Diana E. (1976). "A Tribute to Nancy Newhall". Untitled. 10: 5. 
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ "The Cultural Award of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Photographie (DGPh)". Deutsche Gesellschaft für Photographie e.V.. Accessed 7 March 2017.

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