Florida Artist A.E. ‘Bean’ Backus: Inspiration for the Highwaymen

    By Gary McKechnie

    If you like off-the-beaten-path Florida and finding those places that are still untouched, undeveloped, and largely unnoticed, a painting by A.E. Backus will strike a chord.

    You may already be familiar with the works of The Highwaymen and their scenes of Florida landscapes and rivers and trees and lakes and the ocean, painted at a time when air conditioning was new and interstates still were on the horizon.

    Backus inspired these artists with paintings he'd been creating decades earlier, and among his students were Alfred Hair and Harold Newton, both of whom helped to create the Backus-inspired Highwaymen style of art.

    Over the course of a half-century, Backus captured Florida at its best and in some 5,000 of his works you feel the sensations of nature.

    Backus died in 1990, an inductee into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame, and today his legacy is kept alive at the A.E. Backus Gallery and Museum in his hometown of Fort Pierce.

    Detailed captions explain highlights of his life and of his work, and it’s a pleasant surprise to discover that (if you have the funds) you can still buy an original A.E. ‘Bean’ Backus painting.

    But even if you can’t afford to purchase an original, an hour or two at this pleasing museum will introduce you to the works of a Florida original.

    And it will reacquaint you with a Florida from the past.

    When You Go: 

    A.E. Backus Gallery & Museum
    500 N. Indian River Drive
    Fort Pierce, FL 34950
    772-465-0630

     

    Standing in the gallery is like standing in the middle of Old Florida. His paintings -- many painted in the 1940s-60s - reveal scenes familiar to all Floridians.

    Standing in the gallery is like standing in the middle of Old Florida. His paintings -- many painted in the 1940s-60s - reveal scenes familiar to all Floridians.

    - Gary McKechnie

    A royal poinciana tree is a favorite image for the Highwaymen artists -- who were inspired (and taught) by Backus.

    A royal poinciana tree is a favorite image for the Highwaymen artists -- who were inspired (and taught) by Backus.

    - Gary McKechnie

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