Through the Eye of the Beholder

From 1564 to the Present

The state of Florida has been the inspiration for not only art but many artists. It has served as the centerpiece for significant work by both natives of the Sunshine State as well as artists who came to it from far off places. Aside from the traditions of the Seminoles, Florida's aboriginal people, the first known artist was Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues who arrived at St. Augustine in 1564.

During his time in Florida Le Moyne created forty-two pieces of work which are not only valued for their artistry but as a unique and important historical record of that time. Others followed like John Ogilby in the 1600's. Most of this early work was in the form of illustration, engravings and etchings.

In the 1800's some artists turned to the portraiture. The aboriginal people became the subject of artists like Charles Bird King, J.T. Brown and George Catlin. The 1800’s also included some fabulous oil-on-canvas landscapes such as those by John Bunyan Bristol, John Rogers Vinton and George Harvey.

In the late 1800's, after the close of the Civil War, artists like Thomas Moran, Clara Mitchell Carter, George Frank Higgins, William Morris Hunt, Martin Johnson Heade, Laura Woodward, Frank Harvey Shapleigh, William Staples Drown, William Aiken Walker, George de Forest Brush, George Herbert McCord and others produced beautiful landscapes.

In the first part of the 20th century Florida would be visited by artists such as John Singer Sargent, Anthony Thieme, Louis Charles Vogt, Ernest Lawson, Emile Gruppe and Laura Woodward. But out of all Florida's visiting artists we should not forget about John James Audubon.

The most notable painters of Florida are George Inness, Hermann Herzog, Winslow Homer, Frank Hamilton Taylor, and William Picknell.

Many patrons of the arts came to vacation in Florida and the artists would sometimes follow. Florida was also visited by businessmen such as Henry Morrison Flagler, Henry Plant, Addison Mizner, George Merrick and John Ringling who contributed not just in development of the land but in the development of the art and culture as well.

In spite of all these visitors, Florida did have some native artists. The most notable one of them all was Albert Ernest “Bean” Backus. Backus painted some of Florida’s most beautiful landscapes [Click here to visit the Bean Backus site].

Backus also became the catalyst and inspiration for a group of young men from Ft. Pierce during the 1950’s which culminated into what essentially became Florida’s first art movement. These landscape painters, now collectively called The Highwaymen, produced landscapes in virtually 30 minutes using any inexpensive materials at hand, but depicting Florida with a craft and vividness that had never been seen before. The work was painted fast and was sold fast, and cheap, right out of the trunks of cars by the artists themselves. Harold Newton, Alfred Hair and Roy McLendon are some of the more prominent names from this large group of local artists [Click here to visit The Highwaymen site].

Between the visiting artists and the annual tourists part of Florida’s inspired paintings were carried out of the state. But they can be found in many northern homes, businesses and institutions like the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts. Though Florida keeps changing, its original and charming beauty continues in the painted work of these many fine artists.


The Artists Who Painted Florida
(a partial listing)

Albert Ernest Beanie Backus
Frank Weston Benson
Harold Harrington Betts
Franz Josef
Bolinger
Orville
Bulman
William Staples
Drown
Emmett John
Fritz
Emile Albert
Gruppe
Alfred
Hair
Hildegarde Hume
Hamilton
Martin Johnson
Heade
Hermann Ottmar
Herzog
Harry Leslie
Hoffman
Winslow
Homer
William Morris
Hunt
George
Inness
Ernest
Lawson
Benson Bond
Moore
Thomas
Moran
Harold
Newton
Jane
Peterson
Henrich Herman
Pfeiffer
John Singer
Sargent
Frank Henry
Shapleigh
Adolph Robert
Shulz
Anthony
Thieme
Louis Comfort
Tiffany
Louis Charles
Vogt
William Aiken
Walker
Laura
Woodward