Florida Artists

The state of Florida is home to some of the greatest artists. People like Earl Cunningham, The Florida Highwaymen, Robert Rauschenberg & James Rosenquist all call Florida home.

Earl Cunningham is a talented American Folk artist.  Earl Cunningham was a self taught artist and used bold vivid colors mixed with a flat perspective. Cunningham often added incongruous details, "such as flamingos in Maine and Viking ships in Florida," to his work. Cunningham painted the American landscape of the Atlantic coast and its intracoastal ecosystem with dock workers, fishermen, farmers, wildlife and even American Indian tribes. As he traveled up and down the coast he painted his reflections of the surroundings. His own experiences informed his works, which celebrate the beauty of nature and often depict dramatic storms or sunsets. Painted in the American folk art style, his canvases are filled with images of birds, trees, boats and the sea, and are a unique reflection of American history, from Native American life to more modern times. His glorious, vivid colors have given him the reputation of being an American Primitive Fauve.

Earl Cunningham settled in St. Augustine in 1949, where he opened a curio shop called the Over Fork Gallery. He displayed his paintings there, although this artwork was not for sale. Earl Cunningham continued to paint in relative obscurity. In his spare time, he painted genre scenes, primarily landscapes of the places he saw during his lifetime: Maine, New York, Nova Scotia, Michigan, North and South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. 

The Florida Highwaymen were a group of African American artists who fought against racial bias by creating a large quantity of artwork using supplies such as upson board and framed the works using white crown molding. On the weekends the artists would travel and sell their paintings to hotels, businesses, and individuals who appreciated the artwork for around $25 a piece. Their artwork was primal and raw depicting idyllic views of the Florida landscape, before rampant development would reconfigure the state's topography forever. The Highwaymen are credited for encouraging the beginning of the “Indian River School” and “Backus” art movements and have many followers but these 26 individuals are the only true “Highwaymen”: Curtis Arnett ,Hezekiah Baker,  Al Black, Ellis Buckner, George Buckner, Robert Butler, Mary Ann Carroll, Johnny Daniels, Willie Daniels, Rodney Demps, James Gibson, Alfred Hair, Issac Knight, Robert L. Lewis, John Maynor, Roy McLendon, Alfonso Moran, Harold Newton, Lemuel Newton, Sam Newton, Livingston Roberts, Willie Reagan, Cornell Smith, Charles Walker, Sylvester M. Wells, and Charles Wheele.

Robert Rauschenberg was an American artist who came to prominence in the 1950s transition from Abstract Expressionism to Pop Art. Rauschenberg is perhaps most famous for his "Combines" of the 1950s, in which non-traditional materials and objects were employed in innovative combinations. While the Combines are both painting and sculpture, Rauschenberg also worked with photography, printmaking, papermaking, and performance art. Rauschenberg found his signature mode of painting by embracing materials traditionally outside of the artist’s reach. He would cover a canvas with house paint, or ink the wheel of a car and run it over paper to create a drawing, while demonstrating rigor and concern for formal painting.

Considered one of the preeminent artists of the Pop Art Movement, James Rosenquist redefined art during the second half of the twentieth century. As Pop-Art booms in the 1960s, James Rosenquist, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Tom Wesselmann are the main protagonists. In addition to painting, James Rosenquist has produced a vast array of prints, drawings and collages. One of his prints, Time Dust (1992), is thought to be the largest print in the world, measuring approximately 7 x 35 feet.


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