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Beaumont Newhall Papers

in The Museum of Modern Art Archives



The Museum of Modern Art Archives
11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019-5497
https://www.moma.org/research/archives/
© 2003
The Museum of Modern Art Archives
Finding aid prepared by Eve Lambert, 2003, updated by Rachel Garbade, 2022.

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Newhall, Beaumont, 1908-1993
Title: Beaumont Newhall Papers
Inclusive Dates: 1934-1957
Quantity: .83 linear feet
2 5" document boxes

Arrangement

The papers are arranged in chronological order, and separated into three Series. Series I consists of Library administrative papers from 1934 to 1954. Series II begins with the Beaumont Newhall - Ansel Adams correspondence, from 1938 to 1945, and then concludes with additional Department of Photography administrative material, including several budget statements, from 1940 to 1945. Series III consists of photocopies of letters between Beaumont Newhall, Nancy Newhall, and Edward Weston from 1937 to 1957.
The Papers are organized into three Series:
Series I: Library, 1934-1954.
Series II: Department of Photography, 1938-1945.
Series III: Beaumont and Nancy Newhall Correspondence with Edward Weston, 1937-1957.


Biographical Notes

Beaumont Newhall: Newhall was born in Lynn, Massachusetts in 1908 and graduated from Phillips Academy, Andover, in 1926. He studied art history at Harvard University, receiving the degree of A.B. cum laude in 1930 and a master's degree in 1931. He continued his studies at the Courtauld Institute and the University of Paris. He lectured and published extensively in the U.S. and worked briefly at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 1935, Newhall was hired as the librarian of The Museum of Modern Art. Two years later, he organized and wrote the catalogue for Photography 1839-1937 [MoMA Exh. #60, March 17-April 18, 1937] at the request of Alfred H. Barr, Jr., the Museum's founding director. The exhibition was followed by the publication of Photography: A Short Critical History in 1938. The two works established Newhall as America's pre-eminent historian of photography. In 1940, he helped create The Museum of Modern Art's Department of Photography, the first such department at any museum, and became its first curator. Between 1942 and 1945, Newhall served in the military. His wife, Nancy Newhall, served as Acting Curator in his absence. Newhall left the Museum in 1947 on a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship, and in 1948 was named curator of the George Eastman House, now known as the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, NY.

Ansel Adams: Adams was born in San Francisco in 1902 and was educated as a musician by private tutors, but turned to photography in 1927. His correspondence with Beaumont Newhall began in the late 1930s, after writing to several leading museums to propose the creation of a photography department. Over the following years, Adams wrote to several institutions, schools, museums, and photographic suppliers to garner interest and support for the fledgling MoMA department. Adams also encouraged David McAlpin, a newly elected MoMA trustee, to join him in establishing a department of photography at The Museum of Modern Art. While working in California, Adams corresponded regularly with Newhall, helped to curate the department's inaugural exhibition, Sixty Photographs: A Survey of Camera Esthetics [MoMA Exh. #121, December 31, 1940-Jan 12, 1941], and worked with the Circulating Exhibitions Department to send it to several museums around the country. Through letters and sporadic visits to the east coast, Adams worked as Vice-Chairman of the Department of Photography, helping to organize these exhibitions: Photographs of the Civil War and the American Frontier [MoMA Exh. #172, March 3-April 5, 1942], Two Years of War in England: Photographs by William Vandivert [MoMA Exh. #177, April 15-June 10, 1942], Action Photography [MoMA Exh. #240, August 18-September 19, 1943], and Manzaanar: Photographs by Ansel Adams of Loyal Japanese-American Relocation Center [MoMA Exh. #265, November 10, 1944-December 24, 1944].

Edward Weston: Weston was born in Highland Park, Illinois in 1886. He first began using a camera at the age of 16. In 1908, he attended the Illinois College of Photography in Effingham, Illinois. From 1911-1922, he ran a portrait studio in Tropico, California, where he was well known for a soft focus, pictorialism style. After a visit to Ohio in 1922, Weston began working in the style he is most famous for, including highly detailed abstractions of shells, rocks, fruits, and vegetables. In 1937, Weston was the first photographer to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship, which he used to photograph the landscape of the West and Southwest. In this collection, the first piece of correspondence between Weston and Beaumont Newhall is dated from the same year, as Newhall began creating the Department of Photography at MoMA. In 1946, Weston was the subject of a retrospective, organized by Beaumont and Nancy Newhall, The Photographs of Edward Weston [MoMA Exh. #311, February 11-March 31, 1946]. By 1948, Weston had taken his last photograph as the symptoms of Parkinson's disease worsened, though he was still involved in the printing of previous photographs. In 1956, the Newhalls curated an additional retrospective at the Smithsonian Institution, The World of Edward Weston, which traveled extensively between 1957 and 1961. Weston died in 1958 in Carmel, California.


Scope and Content Note

This small collection of papers documents early Library history, the creation of the Department of Photography at The Museum of Modern Art, and both the professional and personal relationship between Beaumont Newhall, Nancy Newhall, and photographer Edward Weston. The papers are not in any way a comprehensive history of the MoMA Library, nor of the Department of Photography, but they offer a broad overview of the Departments in their fledgling states. The entire collection consists of administrative papers of the Library from 1934 to 1954; correspondence between MoMA Librarian Beaumont Newhall and photographer Ansel Adams, tracing the establishment and development of the Department of Photography from 1938 to 1945; as well as correspondence between Beaumont Newhall and photographer Edward Weston from 1937 to 1957. The collection is divided into three Series. Series I consists of four folders that include minutes from Library Committee meetings, lists of members, fundraising activities, lists of proposed and recent book acquisitions, early attempts at creating a consistent bibliographical format, and Beaumont Newhall's application material for the position of MoMA Librarian. Series II begins with the correspondence regarding the founding of the Department of Photography and is primarily between Beaumont Newhall and Ansel Adams, but also includes David McAlpin, Nancy Newhall, and Willard Morgan, the Department's first Director. The correspondence covers the first ten years of the Department of Photography, revealing the initial efforts involved in creating a new museum department, and forms what can be considered the crux of the collection, as it is the most extensive and substantive. Series II also includes budget and expense reports and initial administrative papers from the Department of Photography. Series III similarly covers the first ten years of the Department of Photography, as well as the planning of an Edward Weston exhibition, and the correspondence is primarily among Beaumont Newhall, Nancy Newhall, and Weston, but also includes Charis Wilson, Weston's second wife, and Dody Weston Thompson, Weston's assistant. When Beaumont Newhall served in the army from 1942-1945, his wife, Nancy Newhall, became Acting Curator of the Department of Photography in his absence and helped organize The Photographs of Edward Weston [MoMA Exh. #311, February 11-March 31, 1946.]. The correspondence continued after Beaumont Newhall left MoMA in 1946 and, in 1948, was named curator of the George Eastman House, now known as the George Eastman Museum. Both Beaumont and Nancy Newhall continued as scholars, curators, and close confidantes of Edward Weston until Weston's death in 1958.


Restrictions

Access Restrictions

The records are open for research and contain no restricted materials.

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Beaumont Newhall Papers are the physical property of The Museum of Modern Art. Literary rights, including copyright belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. Rights to work produced during the normal course of Museum business resides with The Museum of Modern Art. For further information, and to obtain permission to publish or reproduce, contact the Museum Archivist.


Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the library catalog of The Museum of Modern Art. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.
Persons and Organizations:
Adams, Ansel, 1902-1984
Adams, Ansel, 1902-1984 -- Correspondence
Art museum curators -- New York (N.Y.) -- Correspondence
Librarians -- New York (State) -- New York -- Correspondence
Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.) -- Dept. of Photography -- History
Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.) -- Library -- Administration
Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.) -- Library -- History
Newhall, Beaumont, 1908-1993
Newhall, Beaumont, 1908-1993 -- Correspondence
Weston, Edward, 1886-1958
Weston, Edward, 1886-1958--Correspondence
Subjects:
Adams, Ansel, 1902-1984 -- Correspondence
Art museum curators -- New York (N.Y.) -- Correspondence
Librarians -- New York (State) -- New York -- Correspondence
Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.) -- Dept. of Photography -- History
Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.) -- Library -- Administration
Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.) -- Library -- History
Newhall, Beaumont, 1908-1993 -- Correspondence
Weston, Edward, 1886-1958--Correspondence


Related Collections at MoMA and Elsewhere

The Public Information Records include extensive clippings regarding nearly every Museum exhibition, personality, and event.

For complementary exhibition-related materials, please consult the Registrar Exhibition Files. Similarly, the Department of Circulating Exhibitions (C/E) Records include information regarding MoMA exhibitions that toured domestically, and the International Program Records include documentation regarding International Circulating Exhibitions (ICE) of The Museum of Modern Art.


Administrative Information

Provenance

The first two series were created by the Department of Photography and accessioned into the Library of The Museum of Modern Art via internal transfer at an unspecified date. The Papers entered the collection of the Museum Archives at the time of the Department's founding in 1989.

Amy Conger sent the third series of Edward Weston correspondence to John Szarkowski in The Museum of Modern Art's Department of Photography in 1981. The folders were later transferred to the MoMA Library, who subsequently gave them to the Archives in 2008. They were processed and added to this collection in 2022.

Preferred Citation

Beaumont Newhall Papers, [series.folder]. The Museum of Modern Art Archives, New York.

Condition

The records are in good condition. There is minimal tearing of the onion skin paper and a few instances of rusted paperclip impressions.


Additional Descriptive Data

Explanation of Abbreviations

ACS is an Autographed Card Signed.
ALS is an Autographed Letter Signed.
TLS is a Typed Letter Signed.
TL stands for Typed Letter.
MoMA is The Museum of Modern Art.
n.d. stands for no date.
re: stands for regarding.


Container List

Series I: Library 1934-1954

Series I consists of Library administrative papers.

Folder Title Date
I.1 Early Library Correspondence

Application materials for Beaumont Newhall
List of librarian duties
Early drafts of classification systems for MoMA Library

TLS Beaumont Newhall - Thomas Dabny Mabry, Jr. (8/23/1935), letter of application for the position of librarian; indicates interest in photography.

8/23/1935-5/9/1954
I.2 Library Committees

Minutes and agendas of Library Committee meetings
Lists of members and gifts
Lists of expenses and accounts

12/31/1934-12/6/1935
I.3 Library Business

Lists of books considered for purchase by MoMA Library, many focusing on dance and theater

3/30/1936-1/1/1943
I.4 Japan Art

Bibliography of Modern Japanese Art, n.d.

n.d.

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Series II: Department of Photography 1938-1945

Series II begins with the Beaumont Newhall - Ansel Adams correspondence, from 1938 to 1945, and then concludes with additional Department of Photography administrative material, including several budget statements, from 1940 to 1945.

Folder Title Date
II.1 Adams Correspondence: 1938-1940

Initial correspondence between Beaumont Newhall and Ansel Adams concerning Adam's book, Making a Photograph

Correspondence eventually turns to the creation of a photography department at MoMA

Corespondence regarding the department's inaugural exhibition, Sixty Photographs: A Survey of Camera Esthetics [MoMA Exh. #121, December 31, 1940-Jan 12, 1941]

TLS Ansel Adams - Beaumont Newhall (4/15/1938) outlining Adams' conception of a photography department, as well as a list of interested individuals (Edward Weston, Dorothea Lange, Paul Strand) Adams offered to contact

TLS Ansel Adams - Beaumont Newhall (3/1938) includes "Making a Photograph," an extended essay by Adams to initiate interest in the creation of a photography department at MoMA

TLS Ansel Adams - Beaumont Newhall (3/15/1938) describing Adams' relationship with Stieglitz

View PDF of folder II.1

2/14/1938-10/17/1940
II.2 Adams Correspondence: 1940-1941

Corresepondence from Ansel Adams to various photographic departments, institutes, and suppliers requesting information, data, suggestions, and technical advice for the newly formed MoMA Department of Photography

Correspondence regarding the department's inaugural photographic exhibition, Sixty Photographs: A Survey of Camera Esthetics [MoMA Exh. #121, December 31, 1940-Jan 12, 1941]

Correspondence concerning the photographic competition held by MoMA to raise money for the Photography Department

TLS Beaumont Newhall - Ansel Adams (2/4/41) discussing Georgia O'Keeffe's resistance to an Alfred Steiglitz exhibition at MoMA, and her criticism of Sixty Photographs

TLS Ansel Adams - Beaumont Newhall (1/24/41) discussing reactions to Sixty Photographs

ACS Dorothea Lange - Ansel Adams (8/14/41) discussing her submission of work to the photographic competition held by MoMA.

View PDF of folder II.2

4/28/1938-12/22/1941
II.3 Adams Correspondence: 1941-1942

Correspondence between Ansel Adams in California and Beaumont Newhall (and later, Nancy Newhall) concerning technical aspects of framing, matting, and mounting shows, including Photographs of the Civil War and the American Frontier [MoMA Exh. #172, March 3-April 5, 1942] and Two Years of War in England: Photographs by William Vandivert [MoMA Exh. #177, April 15-June 10, 1942]

Correspondence about a planned MoMA exhibition, Negative and Print, which was ultimately cancelled

ALS Arnold Newman - Ansel Adams (3/10/1942) asking for advice in submitting work

TLS Ansel Adams - Nancy Newhall (9/5/42) resumé detailing Adams' activites as Chairman of the Committee of the Department of Photography at MoMA.

View PDF of folder II.3

12/10/1941-10/28/1942
II.4 Adams Correspondence: 1943-1945

Correspondence between Ansel Adams and Nancy Newhall about the planning of exhibitions Action Photography [MoMA Exh. #240, August 18-September 19, 1943] and Manzaanar: Photographs by Ansel Adams of Loyal Japanese-American Relocation Center [MoMA Exh. #265, November 10, 1944-December 24, 1944] and outlining the development of Department of Photography

TLS Ansel Adams - Nancy Newhall (6/19/43) responding to an informal report on the progress of the Department of Photography and suggesting new avenues for expansion

TLS Nancy Newhall - Ansel Adams (5/17/43) describing new developments in the Department of Photography.

View PDF of folder II.4

1/28/1943-1/14/1945
II.5 Projects: Ideas in Photography Department

Detailed lists of projects and programs for the Department of Photography

Initial drafts of reproductions rights policy.

View PDF of folder II.5

10/21/1940-5/14/1945
II.6 Personnel: Photography Department

Documents detailing the creation of the position of Director of Photography, and the proposed expansion of the Department.

View PDF of folder II.6

4/30/1943-5/3/1944
II.7 Analyst's File: Budget, 1944

Documents outlinging budget changes and re-allocation of funds

Budget and expenses for Department of Photography, 1943 - 44

Lists of proposed photography exhibitions for 1944 - 45

View PDF of folder II.7

5/11/1943-9/29/1944
II.8 Budget: 1945 - 1946

Department of Photography budget estimate for 1945/46

6/30/1944-6/3/1945
II.9 Annotated Copy of Photography 1839-1937

This 1937 publication, Photography 1839-1937, is annotated by Newhall with revisions for the 1938 publication, Photography: A Short Critical History.

This folder was added in 2022.

1938

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Series III: Beaumont and Nancy Newhall Correspondence with Edward Weston 1937-1957

Series III contains photocopies of correspondence between Beaumont Newhall, Nancy Newhall, and Edward Weston, from 1937 to 1957, arranged chronologically.

Folder Title Date
III.1 Weston Correspondence: 1937-1942

Correspondence covers the new Department of Photography, Weston's printing techniques, Weston's commission to illustrate Leaves of Grass, the impact of World War II on the Museum's finances (causing a delay in Weston's exhibition), and Newhall's drafting into the Photo Intelligence Detachment of the United States Army Air Force.

4/20/1937-12/10/1942
III.2 Weston Correspondence: 1943-1945

Correspondence with Nancy Newhall predominates as she assumes the role of Acting Curator, helping to organize The Photographs of Edward Weston [MoMA Exh. #311, February 11-March 31, 1946.]. Edward Steichen's forthcoming appointment as head of the Department of Photography is discussed.

1/1/1943-12/29/1945
III.3 Weston Correspondence: 1946-1947

Correspondence covers reactions to The Photographs of Edward Weston [MoMA Exh. #311, February 11-March 31, 1946.], and also includes discussion of Weston's health and divorce, Nancy Newhall's book on Paul Strand, Beaumont Newhall's teaching position at Black Mountain College, the death of Alfred Stieglitz, and the founding of the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York.

1/3/1943-12/28/1947
III.4 Weston Correspondence: 1948-1952

Correspondence covers Beaumont Newhall's appointment as curator of the George Eastman Museum in 1948, as well as other topics.

1/17/1948-11/30/1952
III.5 Weston Correspondence: 1953-1957

Correspondence covers Weston's worsening health with some letters written by Dody Weston Thompson on his behalf. Final correspondence includes discussion of a feature in LIFE Magazine in 1956 and the itinerary of the Smithsonian exhibition, The World of Edward Weston, organized by the Newhalls.

1/19/1953-6/3/1957

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