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Newton, Douglas

    Full Name: Newton, Douglas

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1920

    Date Died: 2001

    Place Born: Malaysia

    Place Died: New York, NY, USA

    Home Country/ies: United Kingdom

    Subject Area(s): African (general, continental cultures), Americas, The, indigenous art, Maori (culture or style), Melanesian, Native American, New Guinean, New Zealand, Oceanic, Pacific (regional reference), and Polynesian

    Career(s): curators


    Museum curator and historian of African, Native American, and Oceanic art. Newton was born to English parents on a rubber plantation in Malaysia. Before moving into museum work in the United States in 1956, he worked for the BBC as a journalist and editor. As a curator for the Museum of Primitive Art, Newton designed over sixty-four exhibitions for the museum. His ability to create innovative exhibition designs while remaining sensitive to the problems of displaying non-Western art attracted praise from both art historians and the public. In 1960, Newton was promoted to full curator, and was appointed director in 1974. He designed exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, including “The Art of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas” (1969) and “Te Maori” (1984). His publications focused on the art of the Pacific Islands. In addition to editing more than twenty five books on the subject, Newton published two monographs entitled Crocodile and Cassowary: Religious Art of the Upper Sepik River, New Guinea (1971) and Arts of the South Seas (1999). After being appointed consultative chairman of the department of primitive art at the Metropolitan Museum in 1974, Newton became the overseer of the transfer of the Museum of Primitive Art’s collections and archives to the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing of the Metropolitan Museum, which was completed in 1982. In the same year, he was named Evelyn A.J. Hall and John A.Friede Chairman of the department of primitive art at the museum, and was elected curator emeritus when he retired in 1990. At the end of his career, Newton received several lifetime achievement awards, including Manu Daula Award by the Pacific Arts Association.

    Selected Bibliography

    and Gathercole, Peter; Kaeppler, Adrienne L. The Art of the Pacific Islands. Washington: National Gallery of Art, 1979; and Sieber, Roy; Coe, Michael D. African, Pacific, and Pre-Columbian Art in the Indiana University Art Museum. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Art Museum, 1986; and Barbier, Jean Paul, eds. Islands and Ancestors: Indigenous Styles of Southeast Asia. Munich: Prestel, 1988; (foreword by André Malraux) Masterpieces of Primitive Art. New York: Knopf, 1978; Art Styles of the Papuan Gulf. New York: Museum of Primitive Art, 1961; Crocodile and Cassowary: Religious Art of the Upper Sepik River, New Guinea. New York: Museum of Primitive Art, 1971; Malu: Openwork Boards of the Tshuosh Tribe. New York: Museum of Primitive Art, 1963; New Guinea Art in the Collection of the Museum of Primitive Art. New York: Museum of Primitive Art, 1967; Oceanic Images. New York: H. N. Abrams, 1978.


    Obituary, New York Times, September 22, 2001; [Paid Notice:] Deaths, New York Times, September 21, 2001.

    Contributors: LaNitra Michele Walker


    LaNitra Michele Walker. "Newton, Douglas." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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