Byron Burford was born in Jackson, Mississippi July 12, 1920. He studied with Grant Wood at the University of Iowa, earning a BFA in 1942. He returned to the university after serving in the U.S. Air Force during World War II, and in 1947 received his MFA. Upon graduation he was appointed to the faculty and proceeded to teach painting until 1986, when he was named professor emeritus. He did additional teaching at the University of Minnesota, California College of Arts and Crafts, and the Joslyn Museum.
Burford is a prolific artist and his work can be found in several museums and institutional collections, including the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), the J. S. Guggenheim Collection (New York), the Des Moines Art Center (Iowa), the Nelson-Atkins Museum (Kansas City), the Joslyn Museum (Omaha), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the High Art Museum (Atlanta), and the Eastman House (Rochester, NY), to name only a few.
Some of the awards he has won include Guggenheim Foundation Fellowships (1960 & 61), the Ford Foundation Award (1961, 62 & 64), National Institute of Arts & Letters Grants (1967, 72 & 75), and a Midwest Arts National Endowment Regional Fellowship (1988).
Burford is known primarily as a painter and printmaker. Almost all of his work is figurative and done with a muted palette. He is perhaps best known for images depicting circus life. When he was only 14 or 15 years old, he briefly joined the Tom Mix Circus. Since that time, he has gone out with circuses whenever he can including Clark and Walters, Famous Cole, Franzen Brothers, and Great American– often as a drummer in the circus band.
A mural he painted as part of the New Deal Art program entitled Post near Houston on the Natchez Trace, 1803 is displayed in the historic Houston Post Office in Houston, Mississippi. Burford died in Iowa City, Iowa in 2011.
(Information provided by Jonathan Reeves)