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“The Art of the Highwaymen”, a new exhibit at the Polk Museum of Art.

This spring, the Polk Museum of Art will present nearly 70 works of the prodigious and widely popular group of artists known as the Florida Highwaymen is an original exhibition entitled “The Art of the Highwaymen: From the Woodsby Family Collection.” The exhibition, featuring works drawn entirely from the Woodsby family’s private collection, will be on view from February 12 through May 22, 2022, in the Museum’s main galleries.

H. Newton, ‘Untitled,’ Oil on Panel

While the paintings themselves showcase beautiful Florida landscapes, including lush wetlands, warm beaches, and native Florida flora, the story of the artists behind these successful paintings is one of perseverance and determination. During 1950s America, still in the throes of segregation, a group of self-taught African American painters decided to follow their passion, despite the obstacles of racism and poverty set in their paths. Over the next forty years, the Highwaymen created nearly 200,000 works, traveling along Florida’s highways and selling their art from the trunks of their cars or door to door, allowing Florida natives and tourists to take home an original oil painting and a piece of Florida all their own.

This large-scale academic exhibition revisits the Highwaymen, examining their legacy and key place in art history, studying the complete story of their rise, and seeking answers for their unexpected mass appeal. Finally, Florida art that was once deemed lowbrow and rejected from museums and galleries but celebrated widely by eager consumers receives its moment in the sun, right here in Lakeland.

For more information, visit PolkMuseumofArt.org/Highwaymen.

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