Ted Hartwell, Minneapolis Institute of Arts' founding photography curator, died on July 10th at St. Mary's Hospital in Rochester after suffering a heart attack five days earlier near his home in Pepin, WI. He was 73. Hartwell was born in Sioux City, Iowa on Nov. 9, 1933, but grew up in Minneapolis.
A true Midwesterner, Hartwell joined the Art Institute's staff in 1962 as photographer and adjunct curator of photography, and was promoted to curator in 1972. He continued in that position until he passed away. He was part of the early generation of highly influential photography curators, which included Beaumont Newhall, Edward Steichen and John Szarkowski, who also just passed away.
His groundbreaking show of Richard Avedon in 1970, the first such retrospective of Avedon's work, put Hartwell and Minneapolis on the photography map. This exhibition would "set the tone", as photographer Jerome Liebling told the Minneapolis Star Tribune, "for everything Ted did."
Norma Stevens, long time studio manager for Avedon and the Executive Director of the Richard Avedon Foundation, was one of the many who paid tribute to Hartwell.
Hartwell is survived by his wife, Carolyn Mary, their children, Theron, 8, and twins Franklin and Louise, 4; and his son, Joseph, 38, from a previous marriage. A son, Charles, predeceased him.
As Minneapolis photography dealer Martin Weinstein described the man, "Ted was universally recognized as one of the earliest major figures responsible for the acceptance of photography as fine art. At the same time he always remained for photographers, colleagues, collectors and his family, the same kind, gentle and self-effacing person, who was almost unique in his demeanor. There is an old Yiddish term which is the highest praise you can give any person. That term is mensch. You meet very few in a lifetime. They are the kind, gentle, good ones, a person of integrity and honor. My buddy, Ted, was a mensch of the highest order."
Weinstein continued, "The recognition and respect that Ted enjoyed throughout the photographic community never ceased to amaze me. Ted would often visit our gallery's exhibit at art fairs in places like New York or Chicago. He would sit in our booth and receive visitors. It seemed as if homage was being paid to royalty. Artists, writers, curators, collectors, dealers, all would continuously come to chat with Ted and pay their respects. He was clearly loved by all of them."