St. Petersburg Times
Special report
Video report
  • For their own good
    Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
  • More video reports
Multimedia report
Print Email this storyEmail story Comment Email editor
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
Your name Your email
Friend's name Friend's email
Your message
 

Painting isn't just one man's treasure

The Dunedin man was cruising down the road when he spotted a painting by a Highwaymen artist at a yard sale.

By MEGAN SCOTT
Published August 20, 2005


[Times photo: Scott Keeler]
"I don't know anything about art,'' says Cash Cutler, 31, of Dunedin. But he recognized this Highwaymen painting at a yard sale. "If it had been any other painting that wasn't a Highwaymen, I would have walked right by it.'
If You Go:
An exhibit featuring more than 40
Highwaymen paintings is on display
at The Studio@620, 620 First Ave. South,
St. Petersburg. From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
today Saturday, some of the original
Highwaymen artists will be there to
meet the public and sell their work.
For more information, call 895-6620.

DUNEDIN - Cash Cutler laid down $4 for a painting at a yard sale last week.

Now he's hoping to get $2,000 for the Highwaymen piece.

Cutler was cruising around Clearwater last Saturday when he spotted the painting from the car window. He immediately pulled over to take a closer look.

When he saw that it was done by Alfred Hair, a.k.a. A. Hare, he knew he had to have it.

"I don't know anything about art," said Cutler, 31. "If it had been any other painting that wasn't a Highwaymen, I would have walked right by it. I happened to read a lot about the Highwaymen."

The Highwaymen were a group of African-American artists from Fort Pierce who started painting Florida landscapes in the 1950s.

Most galleries did not showcase black artists' work at that time.

So the 26 artists sold their work up and down Florida highways from the trunks of their cars, prompting James Fitch, a collector of regional art, to name them the Highwaymen in 1994.

The group, which included one woman, would paint fast and furious, each producing up to 30 paintings a day and selling them for $15 or $20 each.

"They would have these all-night painting parties," said Tony Hayton, who lives in Ottawa, Canada, and has 60 Highwaymen paintings. "Hair would hang up 30 boards along trees, and he would start his paintbrushes, going from one painting to the next.

"They would paint for a few days, go out and sell for a few days," he said. "Sometimes the paint was still fresh."

Fitch said it is rare to find a Highwaymen so cheap these days because of recent media coverage. When the New York Times ran a feature on the Highwaymen in 2001, the prices for the paintings shot up.

Still, "in spite of all the publicity, not everybody knows what's going on," said Fitch, who also is the founder of the Florida Museum of Art and Culture at South Florida Community College in Avon Park.

Phillip Tunison, who sold Cutler the painting, said he had never heard of the Highwaymen. He wouldn't have sold the painting at a yard sale if he had known its worth, he said.

Paintings by Hair and Harold Newton generally command the most money, mainly because both are dead, Fitch said.

Hair was shot in a barroom brawl in 1970.

His work has only become more valuable since then.

"I call them the last great American art movement of the 20th century," Hayton said. "I believe that people are going to look back on these artists 50 years from now and say that was a special period of time.

"It's kind of like the Beatles," he added. "There will only be one Beatles."

The painting Cutler purchased is still in the original crown molding and on an upsom board, the canvas material the Highwaymen used to cut down on costs.

It depicts a beach scene with white clouds on a blue backdrop, waves crashing against the shore and two palm trees leaning in the breeze.

There is no title (the Highwaymen didn't name their paintings) or date.

But the signature A. Hare is on it.

Cutler said he took it to the Gas Plant Antique Arcade in St. Petersburg to make sure it was real.

The dealer offered him $800.

He said no thanks. He knew he could get more money for the painting.

Yvette Lew, co-owner of Gas Plant Antique Arcade, said a couple of dealers at her business sell Highwaymen paintings.

A few are $1,000, she said. Some are going for $2,000.

Cutler is hoping he can snatch at least $2,000 for this one.

He plans to get a letter of authentication and then put it on eBay.

Until then, he is admiring the treasure over his fireplace.

"I would like to keep it," said Cutler, who is married and has a 2-year-old daughter and a son on the way. "But I like $2,000 more.

"I am very lucky," he added. "I found this just driving down the street."

Megan Scott can be reached at 727 445-4167 or mscott@sptimes.com

IF YOU GO

An exhibit featuring more than 40 Highwaymen paintings is on display at The Studio@620 620 First Ave. S, St. Petersburg. From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today, some of the original Highwaymen artists will be there to meet the public and sell their work. For more information, call 895-6620.

[Last modified August 20, 2005, 01:15:20]


Share your thoughts on this story

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Subscribe to the Times
Click here for daily delivery
of the St. Petersburg Times.

Email Newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT