Highwaymen

DEFINITION

A group of young African-American landscape and skyscape painters, these artists painted their way out of the despair awaiting them in Florida citrus groves and packing houses of the 1950s. Original members were James Gibson, Alfred Hair, Harold Newton and Livingston Roberts. The only female member was Mary Ann Carroll. Their major influence was Albert Backus (1906-1991), a white man often referred to as the Dean of Florida painters who had a fanciful formula involving huge cumulus clouds billowing over the ocean. The Highwaymen created hybrid versions of his style, and their work is sometimes characterized as motel art. Typically they painted on inexpensive materials such as upson board, a roofer's material, and they sold their work out of the trunks of their cars. With paintings still wet, they loaded their vehicles and traveled the state's east coast, selling them door-to-door and store-to-store, in restaurants, offices, courthouses, and bank lobbies. In succeeding decades, however, Highwaymen paintings were consigned to attics and garage sales. Their work has been rediscovered in the mid 1990's, and today is recognized as the work of American folk artists.Sources: Neal Auction Company; Art Link International; (LPD)

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