Al Black is one of the most interesting and truly intriguing Highwayman Artist. He is one of the original Highwaymen. A very private person in some ways, with no biographical data known, including his place and date of birth. He was a loquacious seller, speaking a great deal to prospective buyers, but otherwise gave very few interviews.
Black, known as "Blood", had a colorful but checkered life. He fought a cocaine addiction, and was in and out of jail for drug and fraud charges. As far as we know, he has been released from prison.
His paintings characteristically include sea birds in his coastal works; usually three white birds flying in the sky. He says the birds are representative of the Holy Trinity. Black sometimes adds a fourth bird that lags behind the others to his paintings, which he claims signifies himself.
His work is almost always irenic and serene, perhaps representing his heart's wish so different than his life. He certainly is (or was?) a complicated man, whose art is, in my opinion, wonderful. An excellent example of the original Highwaymen.
Artist: Al Black. (Place and date of birth unknown. Has been estimated early 1940s).
Medium: Oil on Canvas.
Title: "Marsh at Dusk"
Size: 24 by 30 inches.
Condition: Small puncture lower right. Otherwise Very Good Vintage Condition. (The price is substantially reduced due to this minor defect).
Who were the Highwaymen? A group of young African-American landscape and skyscape painters, these artists painted their way out of the despair awaiting them as workers in Florida citrus groves and packing houses of the 1950s. Original members were James Gibson, Alfred Hair, Harold Newton and Livingston Roberts. The only female member was Mary Ann Carroll. Their major influence was Albert Backus (1906-1991), a white man often referred to as the Dean of Florida painters who had a fanciful formula involving huge cumulus clouds billowing over the ocean. The Highwaymen created hybrid versions of his style, and their work is sometimes characterized as motel art. Typically they painted on inexpensive materials such as Upson board, a roofer's material, and they sold their work out of the trunks of their cars. With paintings still wet, they loaded their vehicles and traveled the state's east coast, selling them door-to-door and store-to-store, in restaurants, offices, courthouses, and bank lobbies. In succeeding decades, however, Highwaymen paintings were consigned to attics and garage sales. Their work has been rediscovered in the mid 1990's, and today is recognized as the work of American folk artists.