Gibson Byrd, a figurative and landscape painter, was a master of coloristic subtleties and atmospheric effects. Byrd’s interest in figurative painting had a long history, going back to the early 1950s. His work emphasized social realism, angst and banality in the twentieth century, as well as auto-biographical fantasy. In the early 1980s, Byrd turned away from a narrative, psychological approach and focused his attention on the rural landscape. These landscapes focused on rural southern Wisconsin and coastal southern California where he retired to in 1991. His strong feel for the land was in part derived from his Shawnee Indian heritage. Although best known as an oil painter, he also worked in the mediums of gouache and pastel. He was a member of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Art Department from 1955 until his retirement in 1985, and then was Professor Emeritus.
Byrd’s paintings were frequently exhibited nationally in competitive, invitation, and one-person exhibits starting in 1949. Public collections that include his paintings are: the Butler Institute of American Art, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Kalamazoo Art Center, the John Nelson Bergstrom Museum of Art, the Madison Art Center, the Philbrook Art Center, and the University of Tulsa, among others. His paintings are also in numerous private collections.
Kohler Foundation acquired a collection of 55 Gibson Byrd paintings from his family. The paintings were cleaned by Kohler Foundation preservation technicians. The paintings were gifted to Edgewood College, Racine Art Museum, Rahr West Museum, University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, University of Wisconsin – Sheboygan, University of Wisconsin Union, and the Wisconsin Historical Society. The paintings are noted as gifts from the family of Gibson Byrd and Kohler Foundation.