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Original Artwork by Florida’s ‘Highwaymen’ to Star in Baterbys Auction

by WorthPoint Staff (02/10/11).

Original oil on board by Alfred Hair—one of the original Florida Highwaymen—titled “Fort Pierce, Atlantic Ocean,” framed and signed, will be among the Highwaymen art up for action in the Baterbys Art Auction Gallery 2011 Winter Auction, slated for Feb. 19 and 26.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Several original works of art by Florida’s legendary Highwaymen—the loosely affiliated group of African-American artists who eked out a meager living mainly in the Fort Pierce area of Florida from the 1950s to the 1970s—will be sold at the Baterbys Art Auction Gallery 2011 Winter Auction, slated for Feb. 19 and 26 in Delray Beach and Orlando.

The paintings will be part of Baterbys’ Discovery Consignment Auction, in which consignors are asked to “Turn Your Art Into Quick Cash.” Highwaymen art will be sold on Saturday, Feb. 19, at the firm’s Palm Beach Gallery (13900 South Jog Road in Delray Beach) and the following Saturday, Feb. 26, at the main gallery in Orlando (at 9101 International Drive).

The Highwaymen were so-named because they’d often sell their works—still wet—on the side of the road or out of the trunk of a car. The paint surface was whatever was handy; usually inexpensive roofing material. The frame (if there was a frame at all) was simple crown moulding. There were 26 Highwaymen. All were men (except one woman, Mary Ann Carroll).

The artists latched onto art as a way to escape a more grueling fate: picking or crating oranges in the local groves, under a pounding sun. The sold their works for about $25 to tourists or appreciating locals. The images were raw and primal, depicting idyllic views of the Florida landscape, before rampant development would reconfigure the state’s topography forever.

Original oil on canvas by Sam Newton, titled "Sunset Over the Water," framed, signed in paint.

Original oil on board by Willie Daniels, titled “Sunrise Over the Water,” framed, signed in paint.

The Highwaymen couldn’t have realized it at the time, but by creating such evocative themes in their work, they were satisfying buyers’ needs and laying the base for a huge demand in the future. The artists produced about 50,000 oil paintings before unofficially disbanding in the 1980s. But today, an original work by one of the Highwaymen brings thousands of dollars.

The original Highwaymen paintings in Baterby’s 2011 Winter Auction will include the following:

• An oil on canvas painting by Sam Newton, titled “Sunset Over the Water,” signed in paint lower right, framed, image area: 23 inches by 35 inches, in good condition.
• An oil on board painting by Alfred Hair, titled “Fort Pierce Atlantic Ocean,” signed in paint lower left, framed, image area: 23 inches by 35 ½ inches, in good condition.
• An oil on board painting by Willie Daniels, titled “Sunrise Over the Water,” signed in paint lower right, framed, image area: 23 inches by 37 ½ inches, in good condition.
• An oil on board painting by James Gibson, titled “Moonlight Palm Tree,” hand-signed in paint lower right, framed, image area: 21 inches by 36 inches, in good condition.
• An original oil on canvas painting by Roy A. McClendon, done in 2000, framed, image area: 18 inches by 24 inches, signed lower right, in very good condition.

The birth of the Highwaymen can be traced to 1954 in Fort Pierce, Fla., when the young African-American painter Harold Newton met an established white painter named Albert “Beanie” Backus. Backus encouraged Newton to paint landscapes, and the young protégé eagerly obliged. Soon Alfred Hair joined them, as did a widening circle of artistic associates.

Taking their stylistic cues from Backus, the young, raw painters often worked with a heavy palette knife to create the swaying palms, shifting skies and crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean. Scenes of marshes, birds, boats, moss-laden trees and the St. John’s River were also rendered. Soon, the work of the Highwaymen began to appear on walls of homes and businesses.

Original untitled oil on canvas by Roy A. McClendon, framed, signed in paint lower right.

Original oil on board by James Gibson, titled “Moonlight Palm Tree” (1969), framed and signed.

Over the years, all of the Highwaymen developed and refined their own personal styles, ranging from realism impressionism. But the Florida folk art they created in the ’50s and later is now generating huge attention, especially among collectors. Collecting art by the Highwaymen has become an expensive (and increasingly more expensive very year) hobby, as values trend sharply upward.

Like with many forms of collecting, the thrill is in the hunt—and with something so steeped in lore and anecdotal history as this genre—it is both frustrating and exhilarating for collectors pursuing even the tiniest of leads. People in central Florida dream of finding an original work at a garage sale or thrift shop. But those finds have become few and far between.

Today, collectors are fortunate that auction galleries have become magnets for consignors in possession of such treasures. This is especially true with the Baterbys’ first Discovery Consignment Auction, which is designed as an opportunity for art owners in need of quick cash to consign their works to an award-winning gallery and auction house with a fine reputation.

There will be no buyer’s premium in the auction. A portion of the proceeds will go to benefit United Cerebral Palsy of Central Florida, an organization that serves children with disabilities and developmental delays in the Orlando area.

The auctions will begin promptly at 5 p.m. (EST) at both venues, with previews from 4-5 p.m. Online bidding will be facilitated by LiveAuctioneers.com. Phone and absentee bids will also be accepted. For more information about this auction, call 866.537.0265 or visit the Baterbys Art Auction Gallery Web site.

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