Twentieth-Century Man: The Wild Life of Peter Beard (Hardcover)
An exuberant biography of the life of the iconic photographer and naturalist Peter Beard, whose life and work captured the cultural imagination
Peter Beard lived an astonishing life. The artist, wildlife photographer, and bon vivant enthralled and inspired both because of his work and his legendary lifestyle. A scion of American industry turned explorer of Africa and environmental advocate, Beard embodied the extremes of his time: grand adventurer and sexually voracious partier, friend of everyone from the Rolling Stones to Jackie Onassis to Andy Warhol to Karen Blixen. And Beard had a passion—probably more like an obsession—with the faults of the entire human experiment, with the ways in which our consumption of the world’s resources have come to consume us all.
Beard’s outsize life and character—his death-defying documentation of both the endangered wildlife of Africa, and, closer to home, some of the world’s most beautiful women for a range of fashion magazines—animate this lively but authoritative biography. The journalist Christopher Wallace, long fascinated by Beard’s artistic legacy, adventurous spirit, and hard-partying persona, came to know him well later in Beard’s life. Capturing the varied social and cultural scenes that Beard moved through with glamorous ease over five decades, Wallace also makes a powerful case for the lasting impact of his work.
In Twentieth-Century Man, Wallace has rendered this towering figure in all of his contradictions and complexities—a deeply romantic and idiosyncratic personality, beloved by so many, whose sensibilities nonetheless remained firmly rooted in an era characterized by racist and colonialist attitudes. Stirring and visceral, Twentieth-Century Man is the definitive portrait of Peter Beard.
Christopher Wallace is a writer who has been the US editor of Mr Porter and the executive editor of Interview magazine. His writing has appeared in the Paris Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books, the New York Times, the New Republic, the Atlantic, and Guernica, among other publications.
"The author succeeds in looking beyond Beard's surface appeal as the 'ideal avatar for our adventurous impulses, shirtless on a perpetual safari,' to explore what he calls Beard's fatalism, his 'heartbreak over the destruction of the natural world'...A vivid account of a life devoted to the African wild." — Kirkus Reviews
“Spirited… Wallace blends biography, art criticism, reportage and essayistic digressions to create a portrait of a man so disillusioned with civilization that he sought to ‘rewild himself.’ . . . the man is sharper as a result.” — Washington Post