the conventions. He took his own path.”
His success didn’t go unnoticed. His best friend, Livingston
“Castro” Roberts, was a painter. James Gibson, another friend
who went to Lincoln Park Academy with Hair, also began
painting and selling. At one time, Willie Daniels and R.L.
McLendon, also artists, lived nearby. Hair did enlist others to
paint the backgrounds of his paintings and make his frames
in order to keep the production going.
But, Lightle says, Hair’s style was distinctive and most
Highwaymen aficionados can recognize an Alfred Hair painting
from across the room.
“The color, the technique — no one else paints like him,
especially the early ones,” he says.
“You can tell right off the bat,” he says. “It’s the palm trees,
one of the trademark images. Another is the bird in flight.
You can tell even if it isn’t signed.”
Lightle says there was a story that Harold Newton, who
is thought to be among the most gifted of all the artists, said
Alfred Hair’s palm trees, top heavy with thatch, looked like
they were about to fall over.
Of the thousands of Highwaymen paintings Lightle has
seen, he says the most unusual of Hair’s works was a 30-inch
by 48-inch painting of a washerwoman, a depiction of a
woman hanging up clothes on a clothesline — a simple fact
of life in those days, done on a large scale.
“It was capturing true Americana,” he says. “That is the
way they lived.”
Hair did get his Cadillac and was well on his way to becoming
a millionaire by the time he was killed. Many of the
artists kept painting after Hair’s death, some out of desire
and others out of necessity.
Doretha remarried and moved to New Jersey. In 2004, she
discovered that Hair, his paintings, and the paintings of what
ROGER LIGHTLE COLLECTION
One of the more unusual Hair paintings collector Roger Lightle has come
across is this 30 by 48 inch painting of a washerwoman hanging up clothes
on a line, a scene of folk life that is uncommon for the artists, who painted
tropical landscapes for the tourist market.
were now called the Highwaymen, had been recognized and
nominated for the Florida Humanities Artist Hall of Fame.
She was able to attend the induction.
“I was extremely happy that Alfred, who gave so much, including
his life, was being recognized for his art and humanity,”
Truesdell recalls. “Because some of the people that were
included as the Highwaymen, he taught.”
Adams says that Hair’s paintings have an energy that represents
his vital role in the Highwaymen story.
“He was always looking ahead, and you get that from the
paintings, from their intensity.”
ROGER LIGHTLE COLLECTION
Puffy pink clouds, draping moss, birds in flight and palm trees that looked as if they were about to topple over, fellow artist Harold Newton once joked,
were the trademark details in Alfred Hair’s paintings. He is also known for his “fast grass,” quickly applied strokes of paint to imitate sawgrass.