The Highwaymen
Florida's African-American Landscape Painters

Gary Monroe

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"For the first time, the real story behind the Highwaymen has emerged . . . a well-researched, lively, and comprehensive overview of the development and contribution of these African-American artists and their place in the history of Florida’s popular culture."--Mallory McCane O’Connor, author of Lost Cities of the Ancient Southeast

The Highwaymen introduces a group of young black artists who painted their way out of the despair awaiting them in citrus groves and packing houses of 1950s Florida. As their story recaptures the imagination of Floridians and their paintings fetch ever-escalating prices, the legacy of their freshly conceived landscapes exerts a new and powerful influence on the popular conception of the Sunshine State.

While the value of Highwaymen paintings has soared in recent years, until now no authoritative account of the lives and work of these black Florida artists has existed. Emerging in the late 1950s, the Highwaymen created idyllic, quickly realized images of the Florida dream and peddled, by some estimates, 200,000 of them from the trunks of their cars.
Working with inexpensive materials, the Highwaymen produced an astonishing number of landscapes that depict a romanticized Florida--a faraway place of wind-swept palm trees, billowing cumulus clouds, wetlands, lakes, rivers, ocean, and setting sun. With paintings still wet, they loaded their cars and traveled the state's east coast, selling the images door-to-door and store-to-store, in restaurants, offices, courthouses, and bank lobbies.
Sometimes characterized as motel art, the work is a hybrid form of landscape painting, corrupting the classically influenced ideals of the Highwaymen’s white mentor, A. E. "Bean" Backus. At first, the paintings sold like boom-time real estate. In succeeding decades, however, they were consigned to attics and garage sales. Rediscovered in the mid-1990s, today they are recognized as the work of American folk artists.
Gary Monroe tells the story behind the Highwaymen, a loose association of 25 men and 1 woman from the Ft. Pierce area--a fascinating mixture of individual talent, collective enterprise, and cultural heritage. He also offers a critical look at the paintings and the movement's development. Added to this are personal reminiscences by some of the artists, along with a gallery of 63 full-color reproductions of their paintings.
Gary Monroe, a native of Miami Beach, has photographed throughout Brazil, Israel, Cuba, India, Trinidad, Poland, and Egypt, among other international destinations. He is best known for his long-term photographic involvements with the elderly’s old world culture of South Beach, Haiti during the end of the Duvalier regime and foray into democracy, and tourism as a rite of passage. He has received various honors and distinctions for his work, including two National Endowments for the Arts, four Florida Humanities Council Fellowships, a State of Florida arts fellowship, and two Fulbright Foundation fellowships. Monroe is the author of The Highwaymen: Florida’s African-American Landscape Painters and three other books on Florida’s Highwaymen artists. He has written nine books, most of which acknowledge unrecognized self-taught Florida artists. His most recent book, E. G. Barnhill: Florida Photographer, Adventurer, Entrepreneur, highlights the artist’s hand-colored photographs.

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Best Florida Books - 2002
The Best of the Best of the University Presses - 2002

"The Highwaymen is a valuable document of Florida's rich cultural past, showing how black artists contributed to the dreamy visions of Florida that were being aggressively marketed at a time when air conditioning and mosquito repellent in the 1950s made the state a desirable destination. ." - The Miami Herald
--The Miami Herald

"A culturally significant work." - Choice Magazine

"It is fascinating and a choice slice of Florida history." - Lakeland News Chief
--News Chief

"It is fascinating and a choice slice of Florida history." - Accent

"This book reveals a body of work that conveys a definite feeling of time and place, as well as personal variances that become increasingly visible as you examine the selection of pictures." - Intuit's Outsider Magazine
--Intuit's Outsider Magazine

"The gorgeous little volume documents for the first time a unique Florida phenomenon which was never formally recognized until 1994 and which is only now coming into national appreciation. A valuable addition to any Florida art buff's collection." - Press- Journal
--Press- Journal, Vero Beach, Fl

"An intriguing look at part of Florida's social history and the world of self- taught artists." - Maine Antique Digest.
--Maine Antique Digest

"the best book on the subject" - South Florida Sun-Sentinel
--South Florida Sun-Sentinel

"the best book on the subject" - South Florida Sun-Sentinel
--South Florida Sun-Sentinel

"The Florida of the 'Highwaymen,' as art historians now refer to them, is a lost romantic realm." "Some of the paintings they created are incredibly beautiful renderings of the American tropics- as powerful as anything Winslow Homer produced, in watercolor and oil, during his winter stays in the Bahamas and Florida." "Andy Warhol, who was so devoted to the indigenous artists of America, would have loved this book." - Bloomsbury Review
--Bloomsbury Review

"Monroe tells this fascinating tale in a volume that collects many of these beautiful paintings." - Tampa Tribune
--Tampa Tribune

"BEST FLORIDA BOOK: The Highwaymen: Florida's African American Landscape Painters (be Gary Monroe)" - Florida Monthly
--Florida Monthly

"From the late 1950s into the early '80s these colorful landscapes were ubiquitous decorations in Florida homes, offices, restaurants, and motel rooms. They shaped the state's popular image as much as oranges and alligators."- New York Times
--New York Times

"The book includes more than 60 beautifully rendered photographic reproductions of Highwaymen paintings that are a joy to behold. For anyone who loves Florida- with its intense vivid colors, its subtropical flora and climate, its sunrises and sunsets, its wind swept palm trees, and its many birds- this remarkable story will speak volumes." - The Observer
--The Observer

"A factual and visual work which should appeal to all students of Florida history, art, and the human spirit."

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