R.L. Lewis
R.L. Lewis is one of the quietly creative and versatile figures of a Florida landscape artist tradition that has become known as The Highwaymen. He is one of the 26 original Highwaymen.

R.L. was born in Cocoa, Florida, on the Indian River Lagoon, as the third of six siblings. His mother was inspirational in helping to encourage his desire to sketch and draw what he saw.

A sports injury during his junior year in high school forced him to be assigned to art class at historically black Monroe High School in 1958. His high school art teacher was very encouraging in helping R.L. to expose his artistic talents. He drew large crowds of students in art class with his drawings and sketches. He drew inspiration from reading an article about the great Florida landscape artist Harold Newton while in high school.

R.L. was heavily encouraged by a family friend to further pursue his artistic talents at the college level. He attended Edward Water College in Jacksonville, Florida; Syracuse University in New York and finally Florida A&M University in Tallahassee before graduating in 1966 with a B.A. degree in art education.

He is an educator and an artist. He taught art education in Brevard County School System in Florida for 32 years.

R.L.'s paintings have appeared in many museums, including "A Florida Original: R.L. Lewis and the Highwaymen Tradition" in 2003-2004 as part of the Smithsonian Institute Exhibition and Special Exhibition of Interest Cummer Museum - African American Masters.

R.L. was inducted into the Florida Artist Hall of Fame in 2004.

About The Florida Highwaymen Art Movement

It's the mid-1950s and Albert Backus, a prominent Florida artist, takes an unknown African-American, Alfred Hair, under his wing to teach a unique style of painting in bright vivid colors - a style that would come to define Florida landscape art over the next half century.

Hair went on to recruit 25 friends, teaching them as Backus had taught him. This group of 26 African-Americans were able to establish themselves against many odds, including racial and cultural barriers of the time - forming the group which came to be known as "The Florida Highwaymen". The name derived from selling their paintings up and down the state's highways and door-to-door of businesses.

They painted vivid landscapes and Florida scenes. They painted from the 1950s to the 1970s, and their works were sold commercially in galleries but mostly from the trunks of cars to passing motorists. Often showing the vivid colors of the royal poinciana tree and colorful skies and palm trees with the water of the Indian River in the background, these artists were masters at capturing Florida sunrises and sunsets.

All 26 of the original Highwaymen in 2004 were inducted in to the Florida Artist Hall of Fame. Today, Highwaymen art may be found hanging in many places, including private collections, museums, exhibits and Florida's Capital. The Highwaymen are considered "The Last Great American Art Movement of the 20th Century".

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