BiographyByron Leslie 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 graduating he was appointed to the faculty and taught painting until 1986, when he was named professor emeritus. Additional teaching was done 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. His extensive list of exhibits includes one man shows at the Walker Art Center (1958), the Des Moines Art Center (1961 & 73), Babcock Galleries, New York (1966, 67, 69 & 75), the American Academy of Arts Annual, New York (1966, 72, 79, & 96), and Foslley/Leach Gallery, Washington (1987 & 92). Selected group exhibits include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (1942), the Chicago Art Institute (1943 & 59), the Corcoran Biennial (1952), the Venice Biennale, Italy (1968), the Bienal Arte Coltejer, Colombia (1970), and the Kunsthaus, Zurich, Switzerland (1972). Awards 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 – Clark and Walters, Famous Cole, Franzen Brothers, Great American – often as a drummer in the circus band. Other bodies of work deal with the military, industry and sports. Common elements include the passage of time and human endurance.
There are three works by Burford in the Luther Fine Arts Collection. Alive-Alive is a 1969 serigraph on metal presenting collaged images of circus performers. Tin Mines, Cornwall is a large landscape painted in 1959. The Tornabuoni Twins is a 1983 etching donated to Luther by the University of Iowa Museum of Art.
Source of BiographyByron Burford Paintings and Serigraphs 1970-1981, Waterloo Municipal Galleries (exhibition catalog), 1981; Portrait of the Artist, Des Moines Sunday Register, July 19, 1998;
Marquis Who’s Who in American Art 2001-2002, New Providence, NJ.