APRIL CONVERSATIONS AT THE CROCKER – TUESDAY APRIL 9, 2019 AT 7PM
Who are the Florida Highwaymen and why are they important in the history of American art?
The Florida Highwaymen is the topic that historian (and collector of Highwaymen art) John McCarthy will discuss at a Conversation at The Crocker on Tuesday, April 9, starting at 7 p.m. at the Crocker Memorial Church, Pioneer Park, Sarasota. The program is presented by the Historical Society of Sarasota County (HSOSC) as part of its Conversations at The Crocker series now in its seventh year.
In a richly illustrated presentation, McCarthy illuminates a strange and fascinating African-American art movement. It began in the 1950s with landscape folk-art painters who sold work from the trunks of their cars on Florida’s major highways. It ended with art gallery and museum distinction for about two dozen of these artists who worked under the official art-world radar. These outsiders used oils and painted on Upson board (roof sheeting) and often framed their artwork with cheap hardware store crown molding.
They had no studios or agents and they painted from memory in carports or sheds taking their subjects from what they had seen working in agricultural fields or other jobs of manual labor. Sometimes their paintings were lush imaginative scenes of what they wished their surroundings were. These Highwaymen worked quickly and sold their art cheaply. They sold directly to the public (sometimes from door-to-door) at prices that were usually not in excess of $25.
These traveling Florida Highwaymen mentored and supported one another since most had no formal training in art. None of them achieved fame or success during their most productive days. Today, it’s a different story. The Highwaymen are celebrated and their work is highly collectible. The Florida Highwaymen are considered to be perhaps the last great art movement of the 20th Century.