The definitive biography of photographer Peter Beard, a larger-than-life icon who pushed the boundaries of art and scandalized international high society with his high-profile affairs. He was the original 20th century "enfant terrible" with the looks of a Greek god who blazed like a comet across the worlds of art, photography, and fame. The scion of several old WASP fortunes, he was by instinct an adventurer, and the more dangerous the escapade, the better: whether he was hunting big game in Africa, ingesting epic quantities of drugs, or pursuing the most beautiful women in the world. Among his friends were Jackie Onassis, Andy Warhol, and Francis Bacon. When Peter Beard died in 2020 after mysteriously disappearing from his Montauk home, he remained an enigma to even his closest friends.
Having bushwhacked through Wild, a not-overlong book packed with history, literature, gossip and a smattering of environmental science, I think Beard’s estimation of himself as being in the same league as one of the great masters of the 20th century [Pablo Picasso] seems premature at best, overblown at worst ... Perhaps because of copyright issues, Wild shows only a few items from his immense catalog, at a distance. But it also suggests the old cliché, that the man’s greatest work of art was himself ... You start to sympathize with that angry elephant who crushed his pelvis and ruptured his spleen ... The next-level enablement of Peter Beard...is one of this book’s great unsolved mysteries ... Affectionate and a little bemused, with plenty of recent interviews hot off the tape, Wild is fresh meat, sometimes delectable, sometimes hard to chew. Unclear how it will age.
An artist’s life and work are often intertwined; in the case of Peter Beard (1938-2020), the distinction was especially blurred. Boynton, a journalist and longtime friend, valiantly attempts a balanced perspective, yet the scale often tips in favor of his progressively chaotic existence ... Though Boynton offers due diligence to the process of Beard’s work and tracks the important milestones, we never quite get a handle on how he progressed as an evolving artist. Still, the author is convincing in his assertion that Beard will be best remembered for his work ... Engrossing.