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Beaumont Hall

Beaumont Newhall


Honored November, 1990

Beaumont Newhall

Photographic historian Beaumont Newhall's earliest memory is set in a darkroom. "I was standing beside my mother in her darkroom while she was developing plates," he recalled. "I thought it was magic that made a picture on a piece of glass."

Born in 1908, Beaumont spent his childhood in Lynn, Massachusetts, before going off to Andover Academy and Harvard. Although he had a desire to study film and photography, he settled on art history as the most closely related subject Harvard offered at the time. "I loved it," he said, and even though he came of age during the Depression, in 1931 his teacher and mentor Paul J. Sachs helped him find a job at the Pennsylvania Museum of Art in Philadelphia. Following studies in Paris, in 1935 he became librarian at the then seven-year-old Museum of Modern Art in New York City. There, in 1937, he curated MOMA's first photography show, an overview of the art form.

As historian, curator, writer, teacher, and photographer, Beaumont went on to articulate the value of photography as a fine art. Largely through his critical appreciation of photography, the medium gained acceptance as an art form. He was to author some six hundred books, articles, and museum catalogs, many in collaboration with his wife, Nancy. His classic History of Photography, 1839 to the Present remains the most widely-used text in its field.

During World War II, Beaumont worked in photo-reconnaissance in Egypt, Italy, and North Africa, then went on to become curator of Kodak's photography museum, George Eastman House, in Rochester, New York. In addition to curating numerous shows for the museum in Rochester, Beaumont assured his reputation as a fine cook with a weekly newspaper column, the "Epicure Corner," for seven years; and by cooking lunch for noted chef James Beard. (He served choucroute garni and Beard took three helpings.)

Please see Volume 1 for complete text.
Photo ©1997 by Joanne Rijmes