Florida Division of Cultural Affairs

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Alfred Hair and the Florida Highwaymen

Photo of Alfred Hair and the Florida Highwaymen

Landscape Artists
Inducted in 2004

Biography

"Florida Highwaymen" is the collective name given to a small group of African American painters from Ft. Pierce, Florida, who began painting Florida landscapes in the late 1950s.  Under the tutelage of local landscape artist, A. E. "Beanie" Backus, these young artists developed their own individual techniques, creating unique depictions of Florida's sunsets, waterscapes, marshes and inlets with raw beauty and charm.

Through the leadership and creativity of Alfred Hair, the group's original member, the artists shunned traditional methods and painted quick, brisk images of Florida's tropical beauty in bright colors, often painting on wood or masonite. They producing an estimated 200,000 paintings, and sold their creations from the trunks of their cars along Florida's east coast for as little as $20 each.

In the 1970's and '80's, the group fell on hard times as consumer tastes changed. But in the 90's, an interest in "outsider art" (art created by artists who aren't traditionally trained or who are outside mainstream society) developed in the art world.  In 1995, a Sebring gallery owner and art collector, Jim Fitch, wrote an article for an arts journal in which he described the Fort Pierce-based artists as the "Florida Highwaymen," for their tactics of traveling highways I-95 and A1A to sell their artwork from the trunks of their cars.  Fitch's article was soon followed by an article in The New York Times which lauded the newly discovered Florida Highwaymen.  Demand for the group's work soared.   

Today, Florida Highwaymen paintings are widely sought by collectors all over the world. A group of the original Highwaymen are still active artists painting and selling their work.

Recognized as the original 26 Florida Highwaymen are:

  • Curtis Arnett (1950- )
  • Hezekiah Baker (1940-2007)
  • Al Black (1947- )
  • Ellis Buckner (1943-1991)
  • George Buckner (1942-2002)
  • Robert Butler (1943- )
  • Mary Ann Carroll (1940 -  )
  • Johnny Daniels (1954-2009)
  • Willie Daniels (no birth date information)
  • Rodney Demps (1953- )
  • James Gibson (1938- )
  • Alfred Hair (1941-1970)
  • Issac Knight (1942 -   )
  • Robert L. Lewis, Jr. (no birth date information)
  • John Maynor (1948 -   )
  • Roy McLendon (1932- )
  • Alfonso Moran (1930-2003)
  • Harold Newton (1934-1994)
  • Lemuel Newton (no birth date information)
  • Sam Newton (1948- )
  • Livingston Roberts (1942-2004)
  • Willie Reagan (1941? -  )
  • Carnell Smith (1950- )
  • Charles Walker (1946- )
  • Sylvester Wells (1938- )
  • Charles Wheeler (no birth date information)

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