Harold Newton is the original member of the Florida Highwaymen artists and his paintings are most sought after by collectors.
Harold was born in Gifford, Florida, on October 30, 1934. He died at age 59 on June 27, 1994 of a stroke from heart disease.
Harold was a self taught painter who started out in the early 1950s painting religious scenes on velvet canvases. He changed his artistic direction towards landscape paintings after meeting established painter A.E. "Bean" Backus at his Fort Pierce, Florida studio.
Backus was a white artist who was classically trained. Bean was likely Harold's first encounter with an artist who used art to make a living.
Backus' paintings were highly sought after and commanded a lot money from art buyers. Newton saw this and began painting Florida back country and beach scenes.
Backus sold his paintings on comission and in gallaries. But most art galleries in the 1950s would not sell black art, so Harold came up with a different plan. He began selling his art on his own and the Highwaymen were born.
The young artist would set up on the side of Florida's highways and sell his paintings out of the trunk his car to tourists or go door to door in office buildings and doctor's offices.
Harold was able to sell his paintings for $30-$40 a piece. This is how he would sustain himself for the rest of his life.
Harold is generally regarded as the most talented of the Highwaymen artists. He honed his skills in the 1950s and 60s and eventually became a master of Florida landscape art.
Fellow Highwaymen founder Alfred Hair was a good painter too, but he was more interested in the business of art. Alfred was an outgoing artist who created a business of mass producing and selling Florida landscape paintings. Churning out paintings and getting them to market was more important than the art.
Harold had a completely different attitude. He was a loner who usually sold his own art and didn't take part in Alfred's art assembly line like other Highwaymen.
Harold's younger brother Sam Newton would later pick up a brush and become an accomplished landscape painter on his own. Sam does not associate with the term "Highwaymen" but collectors consider the younger Newton as one of the group's members.
Friends and family described Harold as a humble, gentle man who spoke through his art. By the time of his death he was regarded as a master of his art genre.
Harold died in 1994. He never knew or was aware of the term "Highwaymen art." That moniker was given to the Fort Pierce artists by art buyer Jim Fitch after Harold's death.
Harold Newton's paintings continue to be some of the most sought after Highwaymen paintings by collectors.