To Members and Friends of the Oceanic Art Society
It is with heavy hearts that we have learned of the death of Harry Beran, founder member and first President of the Society, in Cambridge, England, last Thursday, as he approached the age of 85.
Harry’s contribution to the Oceanic Art Society and to the understanding and appreciation of Oceanic art cannot be understated – he was pivotal in the Society’s foundation and as the first President he enthusiastically promoted the Society and its aims through his extensive international connections. Members who were present at the 25th anniversary AGM in November last year will remember the recollections of the panel of founder members led by Geoff Carey and Chris Boylan; most stories involved Harry – they were told in front of a large photograph of him taken in 2011 during his last visit to Australia.
His love of PNG art, the art of the Massim region in particular, led to his recognition as the foremost authority on the art and culture of Milne Bay Province. Such was his depth of knowledge – he was called upon by the Barbier-Muller Museum and the British Museum, amongst others, to write about their collections. In 1980 he was curator of an exhibition of Massim art shown at the Australian Museum and he made an important personal collection of Massim art which has since been sold, but continues to enrich the appreciation and understanding of this cultural area. In association with the Oceanic Art Society, Harry’s publications include co-editor, with Barry Craig, of the book “Shields of Melanesia”.
Harry not only had a strong presence in the first decade of the OAS, but he continued to present research papers at the conferences of the Pacific Arts Association around the world. It is a testament to the value of his research that he brought a hitherto unknown Massim artist to light in the 1990s: Mutuaga. Today, Mutuaga’s work has entered the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York) and the National Gallery of Australia.
Harry’s scholarship and enthusiasm were contagious; most OAS members – and both of us who bring you this sad news – have had our interest in Oceanic art and culture encouraged and supported by Harry over a quarter of a century or longer. He became a life member of the Society in 2014.
With Harry’s passing after a long illness, we feel a sense of loss for a colleague, for the knowledge he had, for a fellow member and above all, we feel the loss of a friend. Our thoughts go out to his wife Clare Harding and to his son Steven Beran.
Bill Rathmell and Crispin Howarth,
Oceanic Art Society,
PO Box 3287, Wareemba NSW 2046,