Art Of The Day

Happy Birthday, Byron Burford! 

 Born in Jackson, Mississippi on this day in 1920, Burford was fascinated with the sparkle and spectacle of traveling carnivals and circuses from a young age. The son of a YMCA director and community entertainment booker who brought the circus to town, Burford worked as a roadie for the Tom Mix circus as a teenager. During his time as a circus #roadie, Burford recorded the glitz and dark glamor of the traveling entertainers in pulsating, chaotic paintings.

 A student of Grant Wood, Burford studied painting at the University of Iowa. As a junior in college, Burford won a mural commission from the Treasury Department’s Section of Painting and Sculpture to enhance the Houston, Mississippi post office. Upon graduating in 1942, Burford joined the army and served in World War II. After the war, Burford returned to the University of Iowa, where he completed his Master of Fine Arts degree in 1947. Burford went on to teach painting at the University of Iowa for nearly forty years. 

 When not palling around with Kurt Vonnegut (who taught at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop for two years in the 1960s), Burford continued to travel with circuses as a painter and drummer. 

This brilliantly colored painting typifies Burford’s work. A rainbow of costumes are on display as clowns, acrobats, elephants, stilt-walkers, and musicians parade and preen for the viewer. 

UIMA2016LEGACIES trans top heavy banner

  • Additional Information

    Dennis Hevesi. "Byron Burford, Artist of Circus Life, Dies at 90." The New York Times, June 26, 2011. 

Byron Burford


, 1997
Alkyd resin on linen, 73 x 89 in. (185.42 x 226.06 cm)
Gift of Byron Burford and Family, 1998.93