Beaumont Newhall 1908-1993


photo by: Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1946
Wildcat Hill: Edward Weston, Nancy Newhall & Woman 1940 | 4x5 Silver Gelatin Print | 415.16.10

Expressed in clear, forceful prose, Mr. Newhall's account of the development of the medium as both an art and a means of communication quickly became established as the pre-eminent history of photography. In 1947 Mr. Newhall was awarded a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship to rework his book, and the new version was published the following year under the title "The History of Photography, 1839 to the Present." Mr. Newhall continued to revise and expand his study over the years, and in 1982 it was published in its fifth edition. A Harvard Graduate

Mr. Newhall was born in Lynn, Mass., in 1908. He studied art history at Harvard, graduating in 1930. He received a master's degree from Harvard in 1931, and later studied at the University of Paris and the Courtauld Institute of Art of the University of London. He worked briefly at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art before being hired in 1935 as the librarian at the Modern.

In addition to his central role as a chronicler of photography, Mr. New hall served for many years as a leading curator and museum director. In 1940 he was named the first curator of the newly created Department of Photography at the Modern. When Mr. Newhall was called to military service in 1942, his first wife, Nancy, took over the department, but upon his return in 1945 he resumed his duties as curator.

In 1947, the photographer Edward Steichen was hired to be head of the department of photography, and Mr. Newhall left the museum. The following year he was named curator of the George Eastman House, now known as the International Museum of Photography, a museum in Rochester devoted to the medium. In 1958 Mr. Newhall became director of the Eastman House, a position he held until 1971 when he retired to join the faculty of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. In 1984 he was named an emeritus professor of the university. A Scholar and Author

Mr. Newhall was a friend of many of the most important photographers of his time, including Edward Weston, Ansel Adams and Henri Cartier-Bresson; this fact lent added authority and insight to his writing about the medium.

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