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. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of July 24-30

    Events

    Tampa Bay Comic Con: The geek fest returns to the Tampa Convention Center from Friday-Sunday, bringing celebrity appearances including Val Kilmer (Batman Forever), Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek's Uhura), Kate Beckinsale and numerous comic book artists and writers. Also, comics, videos, toys, action …

    Shaun Audit poses for a photo at opening day of the 2015 Tampa Bay Comic Con at the Tampa Convention Center. (Friday, July 31, 2015.) [Photo Luis Santana | Times]
  2. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 19: A peregrina spends the whole day under the weather, and part of the day under the table

    Travel

    Day 19: El Burgo Ranero to Puente Villarente: 25.4 km, 7.5 hours (Total for Days 1-19 = 454 km (282 miles)

    This list pretty much sums up my day:

    Eat two bananas

    Walk 13.1 kilometers

    Nap

    Walk 6.2 kilometers

    Nap

    Eat half an apple

    Walk 6.1 kilometers

    Crash< …

  3. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 18: Despite feeling ill, this pilgrim passes the midpoint in her 500-mile journey on foot

    Travel

    Day 18: Lédigos to El Burgo Ranero: 34.3 km, 12.25 hours (Total for Days 1-18 = 428 km (266 miles)

    Today was a struggle.

  4. Actor John Heard dies at age 72

    Blogs

    John Heard, who played so many roles in the '80s but was probably best known as the dad in the Home Alone movies, has died, according to media reports. He was 72.

  5. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 17: Think 11 miles of nothing but straight trail and open, flat fields sounds easy? Think again.

    Travel

    Day 17: Villarmentero de Campos to Lédigos: 33.5 km, 10.25 hours. Total for Days 1-17 = 394 km (245 miles)