Remarks by Karl Katz at the Arnold Newman Memorial, February 2007
When I first met Arnold he extended his hand, asking me to hold his camera bag, and said, “Hi. Say hello to Gus.” Before remembering Arnold one has to describe Gus, or Augusta. She is a special person, particularly in Jerusalem where she was a gunrunner for Teddy Kollek. She was always an important part of the Newman team. Let’s all wish her well.
So there I was holding Arnold Newman’s camera bag on a barren hill with some pecking chickens. That site looks ancient. It is the location of the Israel Museum in the center of Jerusalem and overlooks the Crusader Monastery in the Valley of the Cross.
Looking at this bleak landscape Arnold said “Show me where the entrance will be.” In one of his photographs you see me pointing at the empty crest of the hill on the site called Neve Sha’anan, “the residence of tranquility.”
In 1959 the museum was still six years from becoming an enormously large building project. Though many people photographed the site no one captured it as Arnold did. The Museum stands on the hill’s pinnacle with a 360-degree view of the surrounding landscape with Bethlehem in the southeast. From then on Arnold was the “official” photographer of the Israel Museum. That was the beginning of our friendship.
I have a lovely photograph made by Arnold of me sitting in my office at the Bezalel Museum with the photographs of the museum’s founder, Boris Schatz, and my immediate predecessor, Mordechai Narkiss, on the wall above me. This photograph sat on my desk making me ever aware of these two men and their pioneer achievements.
In the early sixties in my proposal presentation for the organization of the Israel Museum I included a Department of Photography, a division still nearly unheard of in museums. A gentleman came to me months later and said, “I’d like to help the new photography department.” A few days later when his check arrived I called up our Honorary Curator of Photography, Arnold. Fortunately there was an early photography sale at Parke-Bernet, now Sotheby’s, only days later. It was not successful, so we took advantage of the modest prices and Arnold bought amazing photographs to start the museum’s photography collection. It included the works of Adams, Westons, Julia Cameron, and Lewis Caroll. What a coup for a department that would appear four or five years later.
In May 1965 Arnold came to Jerusalem for the Museum’s grand opening, naturally accompanied by Gus. He was also with Bob Moskin; they were to do a big photo spread for Look Magazine. He asked some kids whose paintings were included in the Children’s Wing to bring their work up to the roof for him to photograph; after that exposure the wing started to flourish.
For many years Arnold has been advising the Israel Museum with the help of Gus. He’s always been there for the museum, the photography department, and anybody connected with Jerusalem and Israel. The Museum will always remember Arnold with great gratitude and affection.
I will remember Arnold with great gratitude and affection for the Sunday brunches that Liz and I had with the Newmans. We often supplied the Nova Scotia and ritualistically Arnold would go around the table pouring coffee with the rugelah he discovered at Food Emporium.
Many non-profits like MUSE owe a debt of gratitude to Arnold for his generously contributing fine photographs that would always fetch a serious sum of money at auction.
In the last year Arnold quite rightly felt that a first-rate film on his work including remarks on the record and off camera would make a wonderful documentary. I’m so sorry we never got to that.
It has been my privilege to have helped Cornell Capa establish the International Center of Photography and serve on its Board since its inception.
In 1999 Arnold was honored by ICP as the recipient of the 15th ICP Infinity Award for Master of Photography. This is part of ICP’s press release for that award:
Recognized as “the father of environmental portraiture,” Arnold Newman photographs his subjects in their immediate professional, creative, or domestic surroundings. Moving away from the studio and into the home and work settings of his sitters, Newman’s photographs possess intimacy and immediacy. Simultaneously familiar and monumental, his portraits of artists and writers, politicians and world leaders, and icons of popular culture evoke a sense of the inner being of the individual within a framework of abstract composition. In close to six decades, Newman has created a vast and singular body of work, in the process transforming the art of portraiture and influencing generations of photographers. In addition to his portraiture, Mr. Newman is also renowned for his still life and abstract photography. Collectively, his work presents a catalogue of prominent twentieth century personalities. His portraits are epic, conveying a half-century of accomplishment and history through a community of artists, scientists, politicians and intellectuals.