Decatur Gibson Byrd moved with his wife and two children from Michigan to Madison, Wisconsin in 1955 to join the art faculty at the University of Wisconsin. A master figurative and landscape painter, he was also a gifted teacher who was sensitive to the individual styles of artistic expression in his students. He said in an interview, “Teaching art is getting someone to have a vision and then believing in it.”
Byrd grew up in Oklahoma and attended local schools in Tulsa. During World War II, he served as a B-17 engineer and top turret gunner. After the war, he earned a BA degree from the University of Tulsa, Oklahoma and a BFA from The University of Iowa. He began his teaching career at Central High School in Tulsa, then, in 1952 became director of the Kalamazoo Art Center and lecturer at the University of Michigan Extension. After a thirty year career at the University of Wisconsin, in fragile health from the effects of Parkinson’s disease, he retired from teaching and moved with his wife Benita to California. In spite of his affliction, he continued to paint luminous landscapes for many years.
Byrd’s early style was characterized by boldly outlined figurative subjects in lonely or surreal surroundings. Later, inspired by walks in the countryside around Madison and possibly his Native-American heritage, he turned to painting landscapes with simplified shapes using softly layered colors. His work is represented in private and public collections in Wisconsin, Michigan, Oklahoma and California.