Beaumont Newhall Photography Essays And Images

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

Despite his curatorial duties, Mr. Newhall was a prolific scholar, publishing over 600 articles, catalogue essays, and books. In addition to his history, he produced many innovative studies of the medium, including "The Daguerreotype in America" (1961), "Airborne Camera" (1969) and "Frederick H. Evans" (1975). His "Latent Image: The Discovery of Photography" (1961) remains perhaps the best account of the events leading up to the announcement of the first photographic processes in 1839.

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.

In recent years, the enormous influence of Mr. Newhall's history made it a target for younger scholars, who criticized it as unresponsive to contemporary trends. Mr. Newhall was a strong advocate of the Modernist tradition in photography, arguing for "the direct use of the camera for what it can do best, and that is the revelation, interpretation, and discovery of the world of man and nature." A Tough Critic

He did not mince words in his criticism of some recent styles. He described attempts to use photography in a narrative fashion as "basically illustration, related more to the dramatic arts than to the inherent qualities of the photographic medium," and wrote that pictures that combine photographs with painting or printmaking "have little to do with photography."

In his later years Mr. Newhall devoted himself increasingly to his own photographs, straightforward black-and-white images of people and architecture presented in strong compositions. In 1983 a collection of his pictures was published by Peregrine Smith; his memoirs will be published by Bulfinch Press in August.

In addition to Ms. Newhall, Mr. Newhall is survived by her son, Theo Christopher Newhall, of Santa Fe.

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Beaumont Newhall (1908–1993) was an art historian, writer, photographer and the first curator of photography at Museum of Modern Art, New York (1940-1945). His book The History of Photography (1949) remains one of the most significant accounts in the field and has become a classic photo history textbook.


Newhall studied art history and museum studies at Harvard University (1930). In 1937, he mounted a survey exhibition of photography for the Museum of Modern Art, Photography, 1839-1937. The 800-work exhibition toured the country and the catalog for the show became a staple for the history of photography. Ironically, Newhall's treatment of photography as high art rankled the museum's board of trustees, who accepted public criticism that the Museum was turning a popular medium into an avenue of snobbery. [1] In 1948, Beaumont Newhall became the first Curator of Photography at the George Eastman House, and then served as its Director from 1958 to 1971, building a significant photography collection. After his retirement, Newhall accepted a position as Visiting Professor of Art at the University of New Mexico, where he helped to establish the first doctoral program in the history of photography at an American university [2]. He died at his home in Santa Fe, from complications from a stroke, February 26, 1993 [3].


  • editor, Photography 1839-1937, New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1937, ARG. Catalogue for the 1937 exhibition. [4]
  • A Short Critical History of Photography, 1940.
  • The History of Photography: From 1839 to the Present Day, New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1949, 256 pp; 5th ed., 1982.
  • with Nancy Newhall, Masters of Photography, New York: Castle Books & George Braziller, Inc., 1958; 1968, IA.
  • Frederick Evans, 1964.
  • Latent Image: The Discovery of Photography, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1967.
  • Airborne Camera: The World from the Air and Outer Space, New York: Hastings House, 1969.
  • The Daguerreotype in America, New York: Dover Publications, 1961; 1976.
  • Photography, Essays & Images: Illustrated Readings in the History of Photography, New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1980.
  • In Plain Sight: The Photographs of Beaumont Newhall, 1983.
  • Focus: Memoirs of a Life in Photography, Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1993.


  • Perspectives on Photography: Essays in Honor of Beumont Newhall, Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1986.
  • Marquis, Alice Goldfarb, Alfred H. Barr, Jr.: Missionary for the Modern, Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1989, pp 137-138.
  • Ya'ara Gil Glazer, "A new kind of history? The challenges of contemporary histories of photography", Journal of Art Historiography 3 (Dec 2010).


Beaumont Newhall, photo by Charles R. Rushton.
Photography 1839-1937, 1937, PDF.
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