UMass Boston

Picture Perfect

05/09/2023| Steven Whittemore

Growing up in Methuen, Paul Martineau ’98 was raised on the same street as his grandparents, who owned and operated an egg farm. His plan was to enter the world of international relations, and he took honors and college preparatory classes at Methuen public schools.

But it wasn’t until he was 25 and holding down several restaurant jobs that he landed at UMass Boston and realized where his passions lay. Enrolled as a history major, he happened to register for an art history class with world-renowned art professor Anne McCauley. This was the class that forever changed the direction of his career. 

Martineau immediately switched majors to art history and threw himself into the curriculum. “Although my concentration was in the history of art, I was required to take three studio courses, so I took drawing, printmaking, and photography,” he said. “Those classes rocked. Each project in each class was a new challenge where I was trying to top what I did before. It was exciting and interesting, and I wanted to outdo myself each time.” 

He built relationships with other UMass Boston art professors, including Monet expert Paul Tucker. But it was McCauley who would become his mentor and ad- vise him through his college years. Martineau graduated summa cum laude with his bachelor’s in art in May 1998. After graduating, Martineau worked for two years in the research library at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. While he really enjoyed the experience, he felt he was leaving his full potential on the drawing board, so to speak, and he decided to pursue a graduate degree to land his dream job: curator for a major museum. 

Martineau applied to several graduate programs and ultimately chose Williams College’s rigorous and prestigious history of art master’s program. While at Williams, he worked at the Clark Art Institute, and then worked for the Société française de photographie in Paris, France. He returned to the United States in 2003 to be curatorial assistant in the department of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California. 

Named curator of photographs in 2021, Martineau manages and develops the Getty’s photograph collection of over 150,000 objects by learning about the artists, courting collectors and donors, and making purchases. 

He also writes the publications for most of the pho- tograph exhibitions he organizes, coordinates both the multicultural undergraduate internship program and the graduate internship program, and oversees the Getty’s guest scholar program for the department. 

The highlight of Martineau’s career thus far has been welcoming McCauley to serve as a guest scholar at the Getty. She spent three months in residence at the museum doing research. 

“I never thought it possible that I would be able to help her,” said Martineau, who was also able to include an essay from McCauley in his book Icons of Style: A Century of Fashion Photography, which was published in 2018. Martineau is author or coauthor of nearly a dozen books. Like many other UMass Boston students, Martineau worked hard, took advantage of opportunities presented to him, built lifelong relationships, and found career success. 

He describes his experience at UMass Boston as “foundational,” saying it played a “crucial” role in the trajectory of his career and success. 

“It was at UMass Boston that I really discovered what I wanted to do,” Martineau said. He credits the faculty and the mentorship he received for much of his journey and success.