Make us your home page
Instagram

Highwaymen painted the beauty of old-time Florida

DUNEDIN — Paint 'em fast, sell 'em cheap.

That was the mantra of many of the African-American artists who emerged in the 1950s and speed-painted the serene landscapes and seascapes of the Sunshine State.

Before the oils had dried, many were peddling their wares from the trunks of cars or carting them door-to-door. It was a time of segregation and the artists weren't permitted to sell art in galleries.

Their instantly recognizable works of swaying palms and flowering trees reflected in bodies of water or silhouetted against tropical sunsets often ended up on the walls of motels, restaurants, banks and in doctors' offices.

Decades later, this loose-knit group of 26 artists became known as "the Highwaymen." Now recognized as important contributors to American folk history, their iconic paintings, once considered motel art, have become highly collectible.

An exhibit of 60 Highwaymen paintings is at the Stirling Art Studios and Gallery, a campus of the Dunedin Fine Art Center, through Feb. 2.

From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, two Highwaymen, Issac Knight and R. A. "Roy" McLendon, will be on hand to paint, answer questions and sell their work.

McLendon, still a painter at age 80, operates a gallery in Vero Beach. When he was young and living in Gifford, he often visited his neighbor, another black man named Harold Newton.

"He was always painting," McLendon said about the man who inspired him and is now considered a founding member of the Highwaymen. "I wanted to do it too, so I taught myself how. I'd get a few done and then take them up and down the east coast (of Florida) and sell them."

Unlike some though, he was more methodical.

"I'd take my time and get a lot of detail," McLendon said. "I wanted it to be really nice."

He'd paint flamboyant Royal Poinciana trees in full bloom or old abandoned boats on moonlit rivers. Creating lovely images of Old Florida was an enjoyable diversion from his other jobs of picking beans or building seawalls, he said.

Most of his paintings went for $35 or $45 back then. Now, some of his works are going for $7,000, maybe more. He can't quite remember.

The Highwaymen exhibition is presented as a companion show to the traveling Smithsonian exhibit "Journey Stories," coming to the Dunedin Historical Museum Jan. 25.

Three collectors — Matthew Samuel from Fort Pierce, Don Ball from Largo and Mark Torrance of Dunedin — made possible this exhibit, "On the Road: Highwaymen from Three Collectors."

"It's a big show," said Ken Hannon, the fine art center's associate executive director. "It's a collection of vividly colored paintings that speaks of both the diversity of style and cohesiveness of the group. They trained each other and you can see it in their techniques."

On The Road: Highwaymen

from Three Collectors

Where: Stirling Art Studios and Gallery, 730 Broadway (2nd floor), Dunedin

When: Through Feb. 1

Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, or by appointment

Special program: Highwaymen Issac Knight and R.A. "Roy" McLendon are on hand at the gallery from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday

Info: (727) 298-3322 or visit www.stirlingartstudios.com

Highwaymen painted the beauty of old-time Florida 01/17/13 [Last modified: Thursday, January 17, 2013 6:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Gregg Allman of The Allman Brothers Band dies at age 69

    Music & Concerts

    SAVANNAH, Ga. — Music legend Gregg Allman, whose bluesy vocals and soulful touch on the Hammond B-3 organ helped propel the Allman Brothers Band to superstardom and spawn Southern rock, died Saturday, a publicist said. He was 69.

    This Oct. 13, 2011 file photo shows Gregg Allman performs at the Americana Music Association awards show in Nashville, Tenn. On Saturday, May 27, 2017, a publicist said the musician, the singer for The Allman Brothers Band, has died. (AP Photo/Joe Howell, File)
  2. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for May 28

    Events

    Alabama: The country music all-timers hit the road for the Southern Drawl tour with openers, the Charlie Daniels Band. 7 p.m., Amalie Arena, 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa. $26-$86. (813) 301-2500.

    Handout photo of Alabama, performing 5/28/17 at Amalie Arena in Tampa. Credit: Alan Messer
  3. Find serenity at Grand Cayman Island's Cemetery Beach

    Travel

    GRAND CAYMAN ISLAND

    Hey, cruisers, if you've been to Hell and back, snuggled with the stingrays and taken photos with the turtles at the Cayman Turtle Centre, you might be looking for something different on your next trip. (Guilty!)

    Good snorkeling can be found off shore at Cemetery Beach in Grand Cayman.
  4. Karen Bail, who helped Gibbs kids get to Broadway, retires

    Stage

    ST. PETERSBURG — When neatnicks retire, they leave no trace behind. Their desks are clean, like a runway after the plane has taken off.

    Karen Bail warms up seniors Jonathan O’Brien, left, as Juan Peron and Addam Setzer as Che Guevara before the dress rehearsal of Evita in April.
  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for May 27

    Events

    Tampa Bay Margarita Festival: The Barenaked Ladies will headline this festival with opener Cowboy Mouth. Enjoy more than 50 varieties of margarita drinks including a Sriracha strawberry, a bacon rita and even a jalapeno Cabo rita. There's beer and vodka for the non-tequila drinkers. Noon, Curtis Hixon Park, 600 N …

    istockphoto