No Democracy in Quality: Ansel Adams, Beaumont and Nancy Newhall, and the Founding of the Department of Photographs at the Museum of Modern Art

Persistent Link:
http://hdl.handle.net/10150/204109
Title:
No Democracy in Quality: Ansel Adams, Beaumont and Nancy Newhall, and the Founding of the Department of Photographs at the Museum of Modern Art
Author:
O'Toole, Erin Kathleen
Issue Date:
2010
Publisher:
The University of Arizona.
Rights:
Copyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
Embargo:
Embargo: Release after 3/11/2012
Abstract:
In 1940 the Museum of Modern Art, New York, (MoMA) became the first major American art museum to establish a curatorial department dedicated exclusively to photography. From the perspective of the photographers, curators, and critics who had sought institutional legitimacy for the medium, the founding of the Department of Photographs was a watershed event, marking the moment when photography finally came to be recognized as a museum subject equal to painting and sculpture. Although the department has since had a pervasive influence on the field and the history of photography, surprisingly little scholarship has addressed its contentious formation. This dissertation seeks to fill this significant gap in the literature by examining the department's inception and the six years Beaumont Newhall served as its curator.Of particular concern are the ideological battles waged over how photography would be presented at MoMA by Newhall, his wife Nancy--who served as acting curator when her husband enlisted in the army during World War II--and the department's co-founder and key advisor, Ansel Adams. As acolytes of the photographer and gallerist Alfred Stieglitz, who himself had long fought for the recognition of photography as a medium of art, the Newhalls and Adams took aesthetic quality as their guiding metric, asserting that in order to raise the profile of photographers, educate the public, and improve standards of taste, the museum should show only the very best work ever created--the "heavy cream" of photographic production. Their vision for photography at the museum was counterbalanced by that of the photographer Edward Steichen and many prominent writers and critics, who argued that MoMA should treat photography as a broad-ranging cultural phenomenon and means of communication, rather than merely as a medium of self expression. The debate between these two camps illustrates the considerable philosophical, interpretive, and museological challenges raised by photography's introduction into the museum, issues that remain as contentious as ever.
Type:
text; Electronic Dissertation
Keywords:
Adams; Ansel; Museum of Modern Art; Newhall; Beaumont; Nancy; Photography; Steichen; Edward
Degree Name:
Ph.D.
Degree Level:
doctoral
Degree Program:
Graduate College; History & Theory of Art
Degree Grantor:
University of Arizona
Advisor:
Nickel, Douglas R.; Moore, Sarah J.

Full metadata record

DC FieldValue Language
dc.language.isoenen_US
dc.titleNo Democracy in Quality: Ansel Adams, Beaumont and Nancy Newhall, and the Founding of the Department of Photographs at the Museum of Modern Arten_US
dc.creatorO'Toole, Erin Kathleenen_US
dc.contributor.authorO'Toole, Erin Kathleenen_US
dc.date.issued2010-
dc.publisherThe University of Arizona.en_US
dc.rightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.en_US
dc.description.releaseEmbargo: Release after 3/11/2012en_US
dc.description.abstractIn 1940 the Museum of Modern Art, New York, (MoMA) became the first major American art museum to establish a curatorial department dedicated exclusively to photography. From the perspective of the photographers, curators, and critics who had sought institutional legitimacy for the medium, the founding of the Department of Photographs was a watershed event, marking the moment when photography finally came to be recognized as a museum subject equal to painting and sculpture. Although the department has since had a pervasive influence on the field and the history of photography, surprisingly little scholarship has addressed its contentious formation. This dissertation seeks to fill this significant gap in the literature by examining the department's inception and the six years Beaumont Newhall served as its curator.Of particular concern are the ideological battles waged over how photography would be presented at MoMA by Newhall, his wife Nancy--who served as acting curator when her husband enlisted in the army during World War II--and the department's co-founder and key advisor, Ansel Adams. As acolytes of the photographer and gallerist Alfred Stieglitz, who himself had long fought for the recognition of photography as a medium of art, the Newhalls and Adams took aesthetic quality as their guiding metric, asserting that in order to raise the profile of photographers, educate the public, and improve standards of taste, the museum should show only the very best work ever created--the "heavy cream" of photographic production. Their vision for photography at the museum was counterbalanced by that of the photographer Edward Steichen and many prominent writers and critics, who argued that MoMA should treat photography as a broad-ranging cultural phenomenon and means of communication, rather than merely as a medium of self expression. The debate between these two camps illustrates the considerable philosophical, interpretive, and museological challenges raised by photography's introduction into the museum, issues that remain as contentious as ever.en_US
dc.typetexten_US
dc.typeElectronic Dissertationen_US
dc.subjectAdamsen_US
dc.subjectAnselen_US
dc.subjectMuseum of Modern Arten_US
dc.subjectNewhallen_US
dc.subjectBeaumonten_US
dc.subjectNancyen_US
dc.subjectPhotographyen_US
dc.subjectSteichenen_US
dc.subjectEdwarden_US
thesis.degree.namePh.D.en_US
thesis.degree.leveldoctoralen_US
thesis.degree.disciplineGraduate Collegeen_US
thesis.degree.disciplineHistory & Theory of Arten_US
thesis.degree.grantorUniversity of Arizonaen_US
dc.contributor.advisorNickel, Douglas R.en_US
dc.contributor.advisorMoore, Sarah J.en_US
dc.contributor.committeememberMcElroy, Keithen_US
dc.contributor.committeememberJenkins, Williamen_US
dc.contributor.committeememberCrane, Susan A.en_US
dc.identifier.proquest10947-
dc.identifier.oclc659754857-
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