am a private collector seeking any and all works of art by
Alfred Hair, Harold Newton, R. A. McLendon, and all of the
other original Florida Highwaymen. I am not a dealer or reseller,
but a Florida native who enjoys the Highwaymen artwork and
avidly collects it. I also collect other artwork by many other
artists depicting my home state of Florida. My desire is to
preserve this artwork, not to sell it.
will pay cash today for your Highwaymen
am also actively seeking artwork by Florida's Beanie Backus
as well as other artists who have depicted Florida in their
work such as Herman Herzog, Anthony Thieme, Frank Shapleigh
me now on my cell phone at (954) 398-4353.
If no answer then please leave a
the artwork you have on my voicemail.
Or email me now for more information with a picture of your
(If you don't have a picture please
describe what you have)
As seen in Antiques & Art Around Florida, Winter/Spring
is a name I've given to a group of black artists working on
the East coast of Florida from approximately 1955 to the present.
So called because their marketing and sales strategy consisted
of traveling the highways and byways of central Florida peddling
their paintings out of the back of their cars.
I've identified nearly twenty of these artists still living,
they are, for the most part, unknown and have not received
credit for their contribution to Florida's art tradition.
In fact, it was these artists who were the bare bones beginning
for Florida's resident/regional art tradition. Further, their
paintings met a growing demand for regional Florida art and
served to encourage what has become the Indian River school
of painting, perhaps the only school or movement within the
state that is recognizable as such.
of the Highwaymen begins with one man, now deceased, who has
come to be known as the dean of Florida landscape painters,
A. E. "Beanie" Backus of Fort Pierce. I use the admittedly
arbitrary date of 1950 as a point of beginning because that
was the year Bean married Patsy Hutchinson and his career began
to blossom. Unfortunately, Patsy died of complications following
heart surgery in 1955. Bean's love from then on was painting.
He devoted himself to his art, the daily consumption of a quantity
of rum, good conversation, and good friends.
Although Beanie was a white Southerner during a time when
racial equality was not yet taken seriously, he was a friend
to all. This characteristic, coupled with a natural Bohemian
bent, made him the perfect mentor to a group of young black
men who had noted the apparent ease with which he made a living.
Painting, for them, was perceived as being a way out of the
fields and groves.
these young men were content to learn by osmosis, by observation.
Beanie's studio became a place to congregate. One seemed more
eager to learn than the others. His name was Alfred Hair. To
my knowledge, Alfred was the only one of this group of black
men to take formal lessons from Bean and even accompanied him
to the Bahamas on occasion.
Apparently Alfred had an entrepreneurial spirit because he
later organized some of the others who had hung around Bean's
studio and began to "mass produce" Florida landscape
paintings. They were usually done on Upsom board with whatever
materials were at hand, including house paint.
that Alfred employed specialists. Some were tree painters, some
painted only skies, others did water. Who signed the paintings
was of little concern to anyone.
Unfortunately, Alfred Hair was killed in a barroom brawl.
Lacking his organizational skills, most of the others went
their own ways and began to paint and sell for themselves.
Not all of these artists were content to paint by formula.
Some went on to develop their talents and skills and have
gained respectable reputations. Some retained the highway
A few of
the more capable artists in this group are Harold Newton, now
incapacitated by a stroke, George Buckner, still painting and
selling near the thousand dollar range (George and his brother
Ellis, now deceased, once operated a gallery in Coral Gables)
and Al Black, who in my opinion most typifies the Highwaymen.
Somewhere I've heard it said that one sure road to success
is to "find a need and fill it". These black artists
did just that. Whether we are willing to accept their work
as "art" or not is an argument I won't make. I do
know that by painting for the marketplace they inadvertently
created an awareness of and appreciation for Florida regional
art. They deserve recognition for that contribution.
Artists (A partial listing)
A. E. "Beanie" Backus
Mary Ann Carroll