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THE GROUP DEFINED: FITCH & MONROE

Many artists continued painting for a decade or so following Hair's untimely death in 1970. As a means to pay the bills and feed their children, most of the group painted out of necessity. However, all of that was going to change.

 

By the 1980's, Florida had changed. The population had tripled, tourism had moved to Walt Disney World and Busch Gardens, and interstates replaced highways. Florida had modernized. Through commerce and housing developments, coastal beaches now boasted high rises and backwoods marshes turned to suburbs. The ever disappearing landscape that The Florida Highwaymen illustrated had been swallowed up, and so had the demand for landscape paintings.

It wasn't until 1995 that a resurgence of interest would begin. The lore of the unnamed Florida landscape artwork that was so prevalent 25 years prior would be picked up by writer, critic, and art collector Jim Fitch (who ultimately coined the term "Highwaymen").

Artists were initially identified and interviewed by Jim Fitch, and those were then solidified over the next decade by author Gary Monroe. He released his first book, The Highwaymen Florida's African American Landscape Painters in 2001. Monroe detailed and selected artists that possessed the key characteristics of the group; subject matter, sales method, relation to Hair and Newton, and origins in the Gifford and Fort Pierce area of Florida.

In Monroe's first book on the group, he selected exactly 26 artists (twenty five men and one woman) to be considered a part of the group now known as " The Florida Highwaymen". After extensive research and promotion, it was through Monroe's efforts that these artists were inducted into the Florida Artist Hall of Fame in March of 2004. This was the first time in which the "Florida Highwaymen" had been officially recognized as a single defined group, and acknowledged for their incredible skill and achievements.

The Florida Highway Men
JIM FITCH, FIRST APPEARANCE OF "THE HIGHWAYMEN", 1995

"'The Highwaymen' is a name I've given to a group of black artists working on the East coast of Florida from approximately 1955 to the present. So called because their marketing and sales strategy consisted of traveling the highways and byways of central Florida peddling their paintings out of the back of their cars."

- Jim Fitch in Antiques & Art Around Florida, 1995

Florida Highway Man Book

GARY MONROE'S FIRST BOOK ON THE HIGHWAYMEN, 2001

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