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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical / Historical Note
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Beaumont and Nancy Newhall papers
    Dates: 1843-1993
    Dates: 1929-1993
    Collection number: 920060
    Creator: Newhall, Beaumont, 1908-
    Creator: Newhall, Nancy Wynne
    Extent: ca. 150 lin. ft. (268 boxes, 3 flat file folders)
    Repository: Getty Research Institute
    Research Library
    Special Collections and Visual Resources
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
    Los Angeles, California 90049-1688
    Abstract: The archive documents the work of Beaumont and Nancy Newhall, two key figures in the history of photography, through correspondence, extensive research files, published and unpublished writings, and photographs, slides and audiotapes. Beaumont Newhall's papers (136 lin. ft.) date from ca. 1843-1993, Nancy Newhall's papers (14 lin. ft.) date from ca. 1920-1989.
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    Language: Collection material in English

    Administrative Information


    Open for use by qualified researchers, except the audiotapes that have not yet been reformatted.

    Publication Rights

    Preferred Citation

    Beaumont and Nancy Newhall papers, 1843-1993 (bulk 1929-1993), Getty Research Institute, Research Library, Accession no. 920060.

    Acquisition Information

    This collection was acquired in 1992, and supplements were received in 1993 and 1996. Additional material was moved into the collection from Special Collection Accession nos. 920082, 940082, 930036, and 93.R.23.

    Processing History

    Michael Baker began processing the collection in December 1995 and nearly completed it in August 1996. He compiled a draft of this finding aid and Annette Leddy extensively edited the front essays. Kelly Nipper completed processing and re-housing the collection, and revised the finding aid in 1999. Jocelyn Gibbs and Alan Tomlinson completed the final editing of the finding aid.

    Biographical / Historical Note

    Beaumont Newhall is perhaps the first champion of the study of photography as art, and of its history. He was born in Lynn, Massachusetts in 1908 and graduated from Harvard University in 1932. After an internship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Newhall became the Librarian at the Museum of Modern Art. In 1937, at the request of Director Alfred Barr, Newhall organized the museum's first exhibition of photographs. His History of Photography, published for the exhibition, introduced formal criteria for judging photography as a fine art. Revised five times and translated into several languages, it remains a widely read textbook on the history of photography.
    In 1940 Beaumont Newhall became the first Curator of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art. He was drafted in 1942 and sent to North Africa and Italy in a photo-reconnaissance division. In his absence Nancy Newhall, whom he had married in 1936, served as Acting Curator. Beaumont Newhall resumed his Curatorship after the war, but resigned in 1945 over artistic differences with the new director, Edward Steichen.
    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. He died in 1993.
    In his long career, Beaumont Newhall authored numerous articles and reviews of books about photography. In addition to History of Photography, he wrote Masters of Photography (with Nancy Newhall, 1958), The daguerreotype in America (1961), Frederick Evans (1964), Latent image: the discovery of photography (1967) and Focus: memoirs of a life in photography (1993). He also published a book of photographs, In plain sight: the photographs of Beaumont Newhall (1983)
    Nancy Newhall (Nancy Wynne Parker) was born in Lynn, Massachusetts in 1908. She graduated from Smith College, where she showed talent as a writer and painter, and married Beaumont Newhall in 1936. After serving as Acting Curator of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art (1942-45), she wrote articles about photographers, edited and introduced photography books by Ansel Adams, Paul Strand, Edward Weston, and others, and collaborated with Ansel Adams on several books about the American West, including Yosemite Valley (1959), Death Valley (1954), The Tetons and Yellowstone (1970), and This is the American Earth (1960). With Minor White, she founded the magazine Aperture. She died in 1974, struck by a falling tree while rafting down the Snake River with Beaumont.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Beaumont and Nancy Newhall papers (ca. 150 linear feet) comprehensively document the professional lives of these two key figures in the history of photography. The Newhall marriage is portrayed through the letters they sent to each other during World War II and in later correspondence and letters of condolence to Beaumont upon Nancy's accidental death. Correspondence also offers profiles of major photographers who were their friends, such as Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Paul Strand, and Alfred Stieglitz, profiles amplified by snapshots and journal accounts. There is exhaustive documentation of the Newhalls' professional lives, including Beaumont's daily journals, minutes of meetings, notes, records, and correspondence. These disclose the drama behind such achievements as the founding of the Departments of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art, N.Y. (MoMA) and George Eastman House, and the establishment of the country's first doctoral program in the history of photography, and essentially offer a history of the struggle for institutional acceptance of photography as a fine art form. Beaumont and Nancy Newhall's published and unpublished manuscripts, in typescript and clippings, span seven decades. Books from Beaumont Newhall's library have been transferred to the Getty Research Library.


    Indexing Terms


    Adams, Ansel, 1902-
    Anschütz, Ottomar, 1846-1907
    Brady, Matthew B., 1823 (ca.)-1896
    Cartier-Bresson, Henri, 1908-
    Coburn, Alvin Langdon, 1882-1966
    Emerson, P. H. (Peter Henry), 1856-1936
    Evans, Frederick H.
    Gernsheim, Helmut, 1913-
    Lange, Dorothea
    Lunn, Harry Hyatt, 1933-
    Moholy-Vagy, László, 1895-1946
    Morgan, Barbara Brooks, 1900-
    Newhall, Beaumont, 1908-
    Newhall, Nancy Wynne
    Porter, Eliot, 1901-
    Sheeler, Charles, 1883-1965
    Smith, W. Eugene, 1918-
    Stieglitz, Alfred, 1864-1946
    Steichen, Edward, 1979-1973
    Strand, Paul, 1890-1976
    Talbot, William Henry Fox, 1800-1877
    Vogel, Hermann Wilhelm, 1834-1898
    Weston, Brett
    Weston, Edward, 1850-1936
    White, Minor
    Friends of Photography
    George Eastman House
    Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.)
    Salzburg Seminar
    Southworth & Hawes
    University of New Mexico
    Motion pictures--History and criticism
    Photography, Artistic
    Photography—Collectors and collecting

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Black-and-white slides
    Color slides
    Photographic prints
    Photographs, Original


    Adams, Ansel, 1902-
    Hagemeyer, Johan, 1884-1962
    Newhall, Beaumont, 1908-
    Newhall, Nancy Wynne