From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Beaumont Newhall (June 22, 1908 - February 26, 1993) was an influential curator, art historian, writer, and photographer. His The History of Photography remains one of the most significant accounts in the field and has become a classic photo history textbook. Newhall was the recipient of numerous awards and accolades for his accomplishments in the study of photo history.
Childhood and Education
Beaumont Newhall was born in Lynn, Massachusetts on June 22, 1908. 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.
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.
The Museum of Modern Art
Newhall's career at the Museum of Modern Art began in 1935 when he became its librarian. 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. It's 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 director of the Museum of Modern Art's photography department.
George Eastman House
Newhall served as curator of the International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House from 1948 to 1958, then its director from 1958 to 1971. While at the Eastman House, Newhall was responsible for amassing one of the greatest photographic collections in the world.
The Newhall Library
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.
The private research collection of Beaumont and Nancy Newhall was donated to the College of Santa Fe and has become the core of the college's Beaumont and Nancy Newhall Library.
Newhall wrote a weekly cookery column for the local New York paper, the Brighton-Pittsford Post from 1956-69. A collection of his writings and recipes was published in 2009 as Beaumont's Kitchen.