The look of “old Florida” that many have come to love, including the natural beauty comes from a group of African American artists, known as the Highwaymen. They got their name by painting Florida landscapes and driving from town to town to sell their paintings to a variety of clients, including doctors and housewives. They sold the paintings out of the back of their cars, and often painted on driftwood, plywood or whatever canvas they could get their hands on. From now until March 22nd, several paintings of the original Highwaymen artists will be on display at the Orange Country Regional History Center, giving visitors a glimpse at Florida life and landscapes from the past, and a look at it through the eyes of those who lived it every day.
The original Highwaymen fought diversity to bring Florida life to the homes of many, in a time when segregation was a huge obstacle. In the 90’s a few articles brought attention to the complex style, and beauty of the Florida landscape paintings, and the members found themselves being asked to demonstrate their skills or even paint ornaments for the White House Christmas tree.
From now until March 22nd, 14 of the original paintings will be on display from 12 of the original Highwaymen artists. The work of Mary Ann Carroll will also be included, as the only woman of the original Highwaymen artists. The artists were believed to be self taught, though many of the original artists have said that they were mentored and influenced by A.E. “Beanie” Backus, in particularly Alfred Hair. Backus perfected Florida landscapes, and created a huge demand for his paintings, often times having waiting lists. The Highwaymen were more than happy to fill those lists with their Backus inspired landscapes, usually at a fraction of the cost, and less time. They made huge accomplishments as businessmen, at a time when African Americans were shunned from many business ventures.
The exhibit is included with museum admission, though there will be a special meet and greet with several of the artists on Saturday February 21st . Guests can meet the original artists, as well as hear stories from the original Highwaymen artists including:
- Curtis Arnett
- Mary Ann Carroll
- James Gibson
- Robert Lewis
- Roy McLendon
Guests wanting more information on the special meet and greet should call 407-836-8500.