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Alfred Hair

Alfred Hair

Untitled Florida Sunset
Oil on Upson board, undated
H: 27” W: 51 ½”
Acquired in 2003

In 1955, Alfred Hair’s high school art teacher, Zanobia Jefferson, at Lincoln Park Academy in Fort Pierce, noticed his talent and introduced him to artist A. E. Backus for painting lessons. Hair was an able and talented student, but he rejected Backus’s formal style in favor of a faster method that enabled him to create more paintings and make money more quickly. His style of fast painting included using a wash of paint for a sky or a river, a few brush strokes for what became known as “fast grass,” and the suggested outlines of trees and other objects instead of detailed renditions. To increase his output even more, Hair lifted weights so he could paint faster and longer.

Hair was the true creator of what became the cottage industry of the Highwaymen. A charismatic and outgoing person, he recruited friends and neighbors to assist him in his new venture. Hair entertained his helpers with beer and barbecue long into the night. Some created frames, some primed canvases, some painted, and some hit the road as salesmen. Word spread as they made more money painting than they did as laborers. To this day, many think of Hair as the spiritual leader of the Highwaymen. He tragically was killed outside a Fort Pierce bar in 1970 at the age of 29. His death was considered a pivotal event by some of the Highwaymen, which diminished the group’s drive to paint and market their works.