Robert Paul (Bob) Byerley (September 4, 1941 – March 14, 2019). Bob touched the lives of several generations and strangers to him until they fell in love with his paintings. He had a vision of a kinder and gentler world where children were supported, encouraged, and loved so they would grow up to be creative. Bob would often reminisce about his childhood when his mother Edith would expect him home for dinner after exploring the streets of Kansas City, Missouri as a young boy. He talked about the sound of the screen door when he left for the day and the freedom of taking the streetcar to the dump or a construction site. He earned a master’s degree in art from the University of Missouri, Columbia but his first plans were to become a doctor and make his parents proud. He never thought that the smell of the painting materials would alter his plans and allow him to become a part of art history. He then had to have a conversation with his parents about how their son was not going to be a doctor but an artist.
Bob went on to teach art at Pittman Jr. High in Raytown Missouri until his first one-person art show. The Barns Gallery hosted the event where he sold every one of his original paintings causing his resignation from teaching. He was married to Judith Smith in 1963, and together they had Christine and David. Bob and Judy divorced in the 80s, and he later married Alice Smith in 1989. His painting career began to grow quickly in the 1990s after a successful showing at Art Expo New York. Bob was able to travel the world as people celebrated his talent and collected his originals and reproductions. He received several awards including best of show and the Hubble award. Bob’s work was shown in an estimated 7,000 galleries at its peak and can still be seen around the world. He loved to work with his models who were usually children. He laughed and supported how they would often take the photo shoot in a different direction than he planned.
The family was Bob’s number one priority in life. He loved his kids and grandchildren which was proven by the number of times he attended their events and planned family vacations. Bob was often found under a pile of kids with ice cream bars watching some kids show. They all knew him as “Papa,” and he loved every minute of that title. Bob would take them all around the metro area to museums, farms, and attractions. He also loved family trips to the Missouri State Fair in August where he enjoyed all the fair foods and people. Bob never truly grew up, and the kids all knew it and loved their time with “Papa.”
Most people do not know that Bob was a sharpshooter in the ROTC and could play the piano, guitar, banjo, ukelele, and harmonica. Bob was also a master woodworker and sculptor. Bob loved his paintings so much that he would make crates for each one as part of his service to whoever purchased the original. He saw those that owned the originals as a select group of close friends that shared that moment with him.
Bob is preceded in death by his mother and father Bob and Edith, his first wife Judy, and his son David. Bob is survived by his wife Alice, daughter Chrissy and her husband Steven, step-daughter Randa and her husband Curt, daughter-in-law Maria, step-son Kevin and his wife Emily, his grandchildren: Hannah, Chelsea, Annika, Alice, Lelia, Collin, Zachary, Jacob, and Kaitlynn. Great-grandchildren: Connor and Eileen.
Bob Byerley (1941- 2019), spent his entire childhood in Kansas City, Missouri. He was an only child. His mother was a piano teacher and began teaching Bob to play at the age of five: When he was six years old he performed his first one-man concert. Throughout his childhood, he continued his musical education. He also showed a keen interest in drawing. His musical endeavors were enthusiastically encouraged, his drawing interests, not.
After high school, Bob decided to enter college, not as a music major, but as a pre-med student. He attended the University of Missouri at Columbia and in his junior year he was required to take three credit hours of fine arts for his pre-med degree. He signed up for a three-hour “Introduction to Art” class, and when he walked into the art building, saw the paintings, and smelled the turpentine, he knew he was home. He loved the art and after one semester, made the hardest phone call to his parents that he had ever had to make; “Mom, Dad, I’ve decided not to be a doctor, I’m going to be an artist! Silence----------”.
Bob went on to receive his Bachelors and his Master's Degree in Art from the University of Missouri in Columbia. After graduating, he taught painting and drawing at the University and also at Missouri Western College in St. Joseph, Missouri.
At the age of thirty, Bob quit teaching and began painting full-time. His primary focus, for many years, was still-life; still-lives rendered in a very detailed, fool-the-eye realistic style. In the late 1980's he began to paint children as the center of interest in his work and in that particular genre, he found success. Bob is now internationally known for his realistic portrayals of children in nostalgic settings; settings that reflect his vision of a “kinder and gentler” childhood.
He and his wife Alice, have four grown children, eight grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. Alice is their business manager and an outstanding painter in her right. They now live in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. Bob’s work is represented in many beautiful collections, and his work can be seen in thousands of galleries throughout the world.