A man of extremes, excesses, and possible contradictions, Peter Beard was foremost a photographer with a famed body of work and perhaps an equally famous social life. A great lover of Africa and one of the greatest interpreters of the wilderness he loved and defended, he transitioned with equal elegance between the urban jungle of Manhattan and Kenya’s National Parks. His adventures and escapades would have him cross paths with many notable artists, including Andy Warhol, Truman Capote, Francis Bacon, Salvador Dalí, and the Rolling Stones, whereas his love of Africa was shared with his good friend, Karen Blixen.
At Beretta, we recognize Peter Beard not only with an appreciation for his great creativity, but also for his unique perspective and ability to capture a singular soul from many desperate objects within his photo collages. Peter Beard spent more than two months, between 1998 and 1999, in our Gardone Val Trompia Headquarters, creating images for the book "The World of Beretta - An International Legend" by R. L. Wilson.
He created about 30 compositions using his famous collage technique to artistically arrange objects, photographs, products, and documents that refer to a particular period of Beretta history.
During that time, a large table in the old Council Room of the Beretta Museum became his workspace with literally hundreds of photos and newspaper clippings as well as significant, and sometimes seemingly insignificant, objects laid about to inspire his compositions. He was absorbed in this work, spending ten hours each day carefully cutting elements, selecting objects, arranging the composition, entering precise notes in his journals, and doodling the exact position of each object to be placed into the picture in order to complete his unforgettable collage.
In total, he created about 30 compositions using his famous collage technique to artistically arrange objects, photographs, products, and documents that refer to a particular period of Beretta history and narrate the lives and contributions of past members of the Beretta family. In that relatively brief period of time, Peter Beard shared with us a glimpse into the mind of an artist, has left us with mementoes of our past and solidified his mark on our 500 years of history.
This image was chosen as the book’s dust cover. Beard specifically selected watches belonging to Pietro Beretta (11th generation) and used them together with catalogs from the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s to cleverly illustrate the evolution of the company and successive generations of the venerable Beretta family. Also included: SO6EELL Over-under shotgun, a side-by-side from 1870, a single barrel shotgun from 1700.
In an effort to depict the vastness of the world of Beretta, Beard arranged an array of firearms as well as items from the clothing line among various manuals, trinkets, tools, and ammunition.
In every collage, Beard tells a story. Here, he focuses on the luxury segment of the production with an engraver’s tool held in his own hand shown within the frame, which also includes a 1978 Lemmi painting in the background, a premium Beretta side-by-side, and a luxury Benelli semi-automatic shotgun in homage to Beretta Holding subsidiaries.
Beard’s inspiration had many sources, often drawing from what and who surrounded him. In this photo, a Beretta staff member holds a pocket-pistol, the Beretta Model 1920, while the back of Andy Warhol’s gun painting provides a canvas for his imagination as well as a table for his snack of breadsticks. As young men, Beard and Warhol enjoyed an artistic collaboration. A curious anecdote about this image: Beard cut the Marlboro letters from a packet of his cigarettes and used them to compose the word “Warhol” shown on the frame.
Another synopsis of the Beretta world, Beard utilized a collection of Beretta gadgets dating back to 1960 to create this scenario by adding products from Beretta wineries and other amenities. The background was none other than the Beretta flag still in use today on the shooting ranges.
Published in 2000, this book of 400 pages contains 225 color and 160 black & white photos. It reconstructs the most important historical events of the oldest gun company in the world and of the family who has been at its helm for almost 500 years.