I liked Jacki Lyden’s story at National Public Radio about some unusual artists in the 1960s.
“If you traveled by way of Florida’s Route 1 in the 1960s, you might have encountered a young, African-American artist, selling a lushly painted oil landscape from his car. They weren’t allowed in galleries during Jim Crow segregation — but motels, office buildings and tourists would buy their vivid works.
“Together, they formed a loosely associated band around Fort Pierce, Fla., that came to be known as The Highwaymen. At $20 a painting, they made their way out of agricultural jobs like citrus-picking and defined the cultural look of an era.
“Their paintings departed from an earlier tradition of landscape painting in Fort Pierce. A.E. ‘Beanie’ Backus, considered the father of the landscape movement there, caught the clouds and savannahs and inlets that were falling to developers in the mid-century. He would teach many youngsters who came to his studio, including the teenage Alfred Hair, leader of The Highwaymen.
“These artists would take off in their own direction. But success has brought enduring tensions on their home turf, raising questions about art, race and cultural legacy. …
“The who’s who of The Highwaymen can be tricky. (A curator named Jim Fitch coined the name in the ’90s and it stuck.) Gary Monroe, author of The Highwaymen, Florida’s African-American Landscape Artists, counts 26 original painters — 18 of whom are still living. That’s how many were inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 2004.”
Photograph: Gary Monroe
Alfred Hair (left) and Robert Lewis