Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Highwaymen painter Robert Butler dies at age 70

Robert Butler, who began painting in 1968, was not part of the first generation of Highwaymen. He died Wednesday.

SKIP O’ROURKE | Times

Robert Butler, who began painting in 1968, was not part of the first generation of Highwaymen. He died Wednesday.

Robert Butler, a painter who was part of group of acclaimed self-taught artists called the Highwaymen, died Wednesday at a Lakeland nursing home, according to media reports. The cause was complications related to a 30-year history of diabetes. He was 70.

The Highwaymen were a loose confederation of several dozen African-American landscape painters, all self-taught, who sold their works along west-central Florida roadsides or door-to-door beginning in the mid 1950s through the mid 1980s. It was an alternative to earning a living working a minimum wage job or a way to supplement one.

They were an obscure group, did not even consider themselves a group, until Jim Fitch, an art historian and collector who saw the similarities in their art, began to track them down in the 1990s. He gave them the Highwaymen moniker. It was a catchy name and that, along with the intriguing notion of an undiscovered form of folk art, made the Highwaymen suddenly collectible. By that time, some of the Highwaymen had died but Mr. Butler became one of the more famous representatives of the movement.

Robert Butler was born in 1943 in Baxley, Ga. The family moved to Okeechobee when he was a toddler and his mother supported them as a maid, waitress and farm worker. Mr. Butler took up painting in 1968 so was not part of the first generation of Highwaymen.

He also departed a bit from the formulaic nature of their landscapes, which always represented rural Florida in nostalgic, romanticized images and vibrant colors. He liked to include wildlife and often was more restrained in his palette.

Serious collectors today pay thousands of dollars for Highwaymen art. But before they were discovered, paintings sold for $35 or less, and the artists had to be prolific. Mr. Butler often produced 100 works a year.

Lennie Bennett can be reached at lbennett@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8293.

Highwaymen painter Robert Butler dies at age 70 03/19/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 9:19pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Siesta Beach tops Dr. Beach's rankings of best locations in America

    Tourism

    Three beaches in Florida made it on a highly coveted list of the top 10 in America this year, ranked by Dr. Stephen Leatherman, a.k.a. "Dr. Beach."

     Dr. Stephen Leatherman, a.k.a. "Dr. Beach," ranked Siesta Beach in Sarasota as the No. 1 beach in America.
[TImes file photo]
  2. Tattooed 'Joker' accused of pointing gun at Miami traffic

    Bizarre News

    MIAMI — Police in Miami-Dade County have managed to arrest the Joker without Batman's help following reports of a green-haired man with tattoos on his face pointing a gun at traffic.

    This photo provided by the Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Department shows Lawrence Sullivan, who was arrested in Miami-Dade County, Fla., on Tuesday, May 23, 2017, and charged with carrying a concealed firearm. Police say the self-described "tattoo model" was pointing a gun at moving vehicles. [Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Department via AP]
  3. Deputies: Two men, teen intentionally set fire, left it to burn within Weedon Island Preserve

    Fire

    ST. PETERSBURG –– Two men and a teen face charges after deputies say they deliberately started a fire within Weedon Island Preserve last month.

    Adam Grote, 19, left, and Brandon Kholos, 20, along with a 17-year-old, face charges after deputies say they intentionally started a fire on April 15, 2017, that burned about six acres on Googe Island within Weedon Island Preserve in St. Petersburg. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  4. Police chief: Manchester searches turn up valuable info in concert bombing

    World

    MANCHESTER, England — Home searches across Manchester have uncovered important items for the investigation into the concert bombing that left 22 people dead, Manchester's police chief announced Thursday, while other British authorities complained bitterly about information leaks blamed on U.S. officials.

    A police officer at the scene at an address in Nuneaton, England Thursday May 25, 2017 where they arrested a seventh suspect in the investigation into the Manchester Arena bombing. British police have arrested a seventh person in connection with the Manchester Arena bombing. The man was held Wednesday after police carried out searches in the English town of Nuneaton, which is about 161 kilometers (100 miles) south of Manchester. [Joe Giddens | PA via AP]
  5. Joe Henderson: Only unanimous jury vote justifies extreme act of execution

    Columns

    A ruling last week by the U.S. Supreme Court on Florida's death penalty law didn't generate a lot of chatter, but don't let that fool you.

    A jury recommended execution for Dontae Morris of Tampa by a 10-2 vote in one of his murder trials. The recommendation was unanimous when he was tried in the shooting deaths of two Tampa police officers.