Peter Hill Beard (January 22, 1938 – March 31/April 19, 2020) was an American artist, photographer, diarist, and writer who lived and worked in New York City, Montauk and Kenya. His photographs of Africa, African animals and the journals that often integrated his photographs, have been widely shown and published since the 1960s.[1]

Early life and education

Peter Beard was born in 1938 in New York, the son of Roseanne (Hoard) and Anson McCook Beard Jr., heir to a railroad fortune.[2][3] He was raised in New York City, Alabama, and Islip, Long Island. Beard began keeping diaries as a young boy and making photographs, as an extension of the diaries, at the age of 12.[4] A graduate of Pomfret School, he entered Yale University in 1957, with the intention of pursuing pre-med studies, only to switch his major to art history. At Yale, he was tapped into the secret society Scroll and Key. His mentors at Yale included Josef Albers, Richard Lindner[5] and Vincent Scully.[6] Beard graduated with a B.A. in 1961.

Inspired by earlier work such as Karen Blixen (pen name Isak Dinesen)'s Out of Africa, Beard traveled to Kenya upon graduation.[7] Working at Tsavo National Park, he photographed and documented the demise of 35,000 elephants and other wildlife, later to become the subject of his first book, The End of the Game.[8] During this time, Beard acquired Hog Ranch, a property near the Ngong Hills adjacent to the coffee farm owned by Blixen, which would become his lifelong home-base in East Africa.[4]


Beard's photographs of Africa, African animals and journals that often integrate his photographs have been widely shown and published since the 1970s. Each of his works is unique, a combination of his photography with elements derived from his daily diary-keeping, a practice he continued until his death in 2020. These volumes contain newspaper clippings, dried leaves, insects, old sepia-toned photos, transcribed telephone messages, marginalia in India ink, photographs of women, quotes, found objects, and the like; these become incorporated, with original drawings and collage by Beard. Certain of his works incorporate animal blood, sometimes Beard's own blood (in sparing quantities), a painting medium the artist favored.[9]

He was a photographer for magazines including Vogue and Elle.[10]

The Peter Beard Studio and Archive was started by Peter and Nejma Beard, and is the primary source for artwork by Peter Beard.  The Archive maintains a repository of published and unpublished written and visual material relating to the artist's life, work, projects, travels, exhibitions, and relations with his cohort.[1]

Beard's first exhibition was at the Blum Helman Gallery, New York City, in 1975. Landmark museum exhibitions have been held at the International Center of Photography, New York City, in 1977, and the Centre national de la photographie, Paris, in 1997. Gallery exhibitions followed in Berlin, London, Toronto, Madrid, Milan, Tokyo and Vienna. Beard's work is included in private collections throughout the world.[4]

In 2017, Beard was sued by actor David Spade, who purchased one of his works. Spade tried to resell a Peter Beard photograph that he had purchased from dealer , but the unsigned work could not be authenticated.[11]

Personal life

Beard was one of three sons born to Roseanne (Hoard) Beard and Anson McCook Beard, Jr. A great-grandfather, Canadian-born James Jerome Hill, was founder of the Great Northern Railway in the United States in the late 19th/early 20th centuries. Having made his fortune in the railroad business, James Jerome Hill was a great patron of the arts. All of his heirs were exposed to and owned great collections, presumably having a strong influence on Beard's interests in the arts and beauty.[12]

He married three times. His first wife was Mary "Minnie" Olivia Cochran Cushing (later Mrs James J. Coleman Jr.),[13] a society figure, granddaughter of artist Howard Gardiner Cushing, and a former assistant to the fashion designer Oscar de la Renta.[14] They married in 1967 in Newport, Rhode Island[14] and divorced three years later.[15][16]

Next he was married to Cheryl Tiegs (formerly married to Stanley John Dragoti), the fashion model, from 1981 to 1984.[17][18]

His last wife was Nejma Khanum, a daughter of a judge of the Supreme Court of Kenya, whom he married in Montauk in 1986.[19] The couple had one child, a daughter, Zara (born 1988),[19] for whom his book, Zara's Tales,[20] was written. Peter Beard's life with Nejma Khanum was turbulent. She possibly falsely accused him of molesting Zara when she was a 5-year-old, and took an order protection from Beard. Later they reconciled for the sake of their daughter, but mainly Nejma needed control over his art, managing his business. They lived separate lives ever since, but remained officially married.

In 1996, he was charged by an elephant[21] and gored in the right leg. After arriving at the hospital without a pulse, he was revived, and survived.[22][23]

Beard befriended and in some cases collaborated with many artists, including Andy Warhol, Andrew Wyeth, Francis Bacon, Karen Blixen, Truman Capote, Richard Lindner, and Salvador Dalí. He also photographed many other well-known people.[4] He appeared in Adolfas Mekas's film, Hallulujah the Hills, in 1963, at the first New York Film Festival.[10]


On the afternoon of March 31, 2020 Beard, who was suffering from dementia and ill health after a stroke, wandered away from his Montauk, Long Island home. Despite exhaustive searches he was not found.[24]

On April 19, Beard's body was found by a hunter in a densely wooded area in Camp Hero State Park in Montauk Point, New York.[25] The cause of death has not been released, and his death certificate is sealed "in compliance with federal privacy laws".[26][27][28]


Selected books

  • Graham, Alistair, and Beard, Peter (1973). Eyelids of Morning: The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men. Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society. ISBN 0-8212-0464-5
  • Beard, Peter; and Gatura, Kamante (1975). Longing for Darkness: Kamante's Tales from Out of Africa. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. ISBN 0-15-153080-7
  • Beard, Peter (2004). Zara's Tales: Perilous Escapades in Equatorial Africa. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0-679-42659-0
  • Beard, Peter (1965). The End of the Game. New York: Viking Press. Reprinted New York: Doubleday, 1977. Japan: Camera Manichi, 1978. Germany: Taschen, 2008. ISBN 978-3-8365-0530-7
  • Beard, Peter; Beard, Nejma; Edwards, Owen; Aronson, Steven M.L. (2008). Peter Beard (Collector's Edition). Germany: Taschen, 2006. (Art Edition) Germany: Taschen, 2007. (Trade Edition) Germany: Taschen, 2008, 2013, and 2020. ISBN 978-3-8365-7742-7
  • Beard, Peter; Paul Theroux. 50th Anniversary Edition of The End of the Game. Taschen. ISBN-978-3-8365-5547-0


  • Bacon, Francis; Beard, Peter (2021). Wild Life: Francis Bacon and Peter Beard. London: Ordovas Books. ISBN 978-1-9996681-7-4.
  • Beard, Peter (1993). Diary: From a Dead Man's Wallet: Confessions of a Bookmaker. Japan: Libroport Publishing Co., Ltd. ISBN 978-4-8457-0791-1
  • Beard, Peter, and Caujolle, Christian (1996). Peter Beard: Photo Poche #67. Paris: Centre national de la photographie, ISBN 2867541034
  • Beard, Peter (1997). Oltre la fine del Mondo. Milan: Grafiche Milani.
  • Beard, Peter (1998). Beyond the End of the World. Milan: Universe Publishing (a division of Rizzoli International Publications, Inc.). ISBN 978-0-7893-0147-5
  • Beard, Peter (1999). Peter Beard: Stress & Density. Vienna: KunstHausWien, Museums Betriebs Gesellschaft, mbH. ISBN 978-3901247071
  • Beard, Peter (1999). Peter Beard: Fifty Years of Portraits. Santa Fe, NM: Arena Editions. ISBN 1-892041-15-4

Further reading

  • Geldzahler, Henry (1975). Francis Bacon: Recent Paintings. Interview with Francis Bacon by Peter Beard. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  • Bowermaster, Jon (1993). The adventures and misadventures of Peter Beard in Africa. Boston: Bulfinch Press, 1993. ISBN 0-8212-1907-3


Year Film Featured Director Producer Editor Other
2017 That Summer Yes No Yes No No
2009 The Making of the 2009 Pirelli Calendar Yes No No No No
1994 Montauk Diaries Yes No No No No
1988 Last Word from Paradise: With Peter Beard in Africa Yes No No No No
1980 Japanese Long Line Tuna Fishing No No No No Introducer
1979 Africa: The End of the Game Yes No No No No
1976 The Bicentennial Big Foot Blues No Yes Yes No No
1975-76 Longing for Darkness No No Yes Yes No
1972 Sisters (working title) Yes Yes Yes No Initiated
1963 Hallelujah the Hills Yes No No No No


  1. ^ a b "Peter Beard Studio". Retrieved April 16, 2020.
  2. ^ "Taming Peter Beard". Retrieved January 8, 2018.
  3. ^ Fox, Margalit (April 19, 2020). "Peter Beard, Wildlife Photographer on the Wild Side, Dies at 82". The New York Times.
  4. ^ a b c d Beard, Peter (2013). Peter Beard (Collector's ed.). Germany: Owen, & Aronson. ISBN 978-3-8365-3088-0.
  5. ^ "Biography". Archived from the original on April 20, 2020. Retrieved April 23, 2020.
  6. ^ "Wildlife photographer Peter Beard, 82, found dead near his home". Star Advertiser. April 20, 2020.
  7. ^ Seymour, Corey (April 20, 2020). "Remembering the Extraordinary Life of Photographer Peter Beard". Vogue.
  8. ^ Beard, Peter (1965). The End of the Game. New York: Viking Press. ISBN 978-3-8365-0530-7.
  9. ^ Enright, Robert (2002). "The Consummate Fragmentarian". Modern Painters Magazine.
  10. ^ a b Fox, Margalit (April 19, 2020). "Peter Beard, Wildlife Photographer on the Wild Side, Dies at 82". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
  11. ^ Kinsella, Eileen (February 3, 2017). "Actor David Spade Sues Photographer Peter Beard for Failure to Authenticate a Work". Retrieved February 3, 2017.
  12. ^ Vanamee, Norman (April 20, 2020). "Peter Beard Romanced Lee Radziwill and Partied with the Rolling Stones. He Was Also a True Original". Town & Country.
  13. ^ "James Coleman obituary" – via
  14. ^ a b "Minnie Cushing and Peter Beard Wed in Newport; A Bridal Party of 21 Attend Couple at Historic Church Twin Flower Girls".
  15. ^ Bennetts, Leslie. "African Dreamer". Vanity Fair.
  16. ^ Klemesrud, Judy (November 9, 1975). "The Self‐Described 'Pathetic Person'". The New York Times.
  17. ^ "Nature Lovers Peter Beard and Cheryl Tiegs Leave Wildlife Behind for the Newlywed Game".
  18. ^ Gross, Michael, "The Dawn of the Supermodel", New York Magazine, Apr 3, 1995, pp 40+
  19. ^ a b "Photographer Peter Beard's Legacy". New York Magazine.
  20. ^ Beard, Peter (2004). Zara's Tales: Perilous Escapades in Equatorial Africa. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0-679-42659-0.
  21. ^ "African Dreamer | Vanity Fair | November 1996".
  22. ^ Fox, Margalit (April 19, 2020). "Peter Beard, Wildlife Photographer on the Wild Side, Dies at 82". The New York Times.
  23. ^ "Alec Baldwin with Peter Beard: The Elephant Attack". American Suburb X. January 2016.
  24. ^ Peter Beard Missing, Search Underway in Montauk
  25. ^ Stowe, Stacey (April 19, 2020). "Peter Beard's Family Confirms His Death". The New York Times. Retrieved April 19, 2020.
  26. ^ Fox, Margalit (April 20, 2020). "Peter Beard, Wildlife Photographer on the Wild Side, Dies at 82". The New York Times. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
  27. ^ "Celebrity Wildlife photographer Peter Beard found dead near his home". Associated Press. April 20, 2020 – via Yahoo!.
  28. ^ Stowe, Stacy (September 24, 2020). "The Legend of Peter Beard". Vanity Fair. Condé Nast. Retrieved October 6, 2021.

External links