Art | April 19, 2020 6:43 pm

Iconic Photographer Peter Beard Dead at 82

Beard's life included distinctive art and high-profile conservation efforts

Peter Beard
Peter Beard at a benefit auction for Edwin Gould Children Services.
Shawn Ehlers/WireImage

Earlier this month came distressing news from Long Island. Artist and photographer Peter Beard, best-known for his book The End of the Game and his efforts as a champion of conservation, had gone missing near his home. On April 12, Beard’s family issued a statement via a spokesperson noting that “while they continue to hope and pray for his safety, they have been advised that each passing day darkens the prospect of his safe return.”

This weekend, the news of Beard’s disappearance took a sad turn. Earlier today, Page Six reported that Beard’s body had been found in Montauk:

A Montauk hunter stumbled on clothing “consistent with” what Beard was wearing when he disappeared, and human remains fitting the missing elderly photographer’s description were soon found, according to the East Hampton Police Department.

Later in the day, Beard’s family confirmed that the body was his.

The spokesperson for the Beard family, in the April 12 statement, spoke of Beard as “an extraordinary artist, an insatiable traveler, a hero of the conservation movement, a lover of life, of Africa, of adventure, of his family and friends.”

Writing in 2016 about a retrospective exhibit of Beard’s work, Ryan Steadman drew attention to another side of Beard’s art. “[T]hough Beard might have, as a young man, gotten into this racket for the thrills, he’s quietly become something else: a hardworking artist who’s both a family man and a fierce conservationist,” Steadman wrote.

Beard maintained close relationships with a broad range of artists — including the Rolling Stones and transgressive painter Francis Bacon. He leaves behind a rich and complex artistic legacy — and a distinctive approach to both photography and conversation.

UPDATE: on April 20th, a spokesperson for the Beard family provided the following statement:

We are all heartbroken by the confirmation of our beloved Peter’s death. We want to express our deep gratitude to the East Hampton police and all who aided them in their search, and also to thank the many friends of Peter and our family who have sent messages of love and support during these dark days.
Peter was an extraordinary man who led an exceptional life. He lived life to the fullest; he squeezed every drop out of every day. He was relentless in his passion for nature, unvarnished and unsentimental but utterly authentic always. He was an intrepid explorer, unfailingly generous, charismatic, and discerning. Peter defined what it means to be open:  open to new ideas, new encounters, new people, new ways of living and being.  Always insatiably curious, he pursued his passions without restraints and perceived reality through a unique lens.  Anyone who spent time in his company was swept up by his enthusiasm and his energy. He was a pioneering contemporary artist who was decades ahead of his time in his efforts to sound the alarm about environmental damage. His visual acuity and elemental understanding of the natural environment was fostered by his long stays in the bush and the “wild-deer-ness” he loved and defended. He died where he lived: in nature.
We will miss him every day.

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