Alfred Hair wanted to be a millionaire by the age of 35 and to drive a Cadillac.
He was well on his way to becoming a millionaire and had owned
several Cadillacs when he was killed at age 29.
refuge at the studio.
At the time, Backus’ works were so desired that he had a
long list of clients willing to wait months for a painting. That
fact wasn’t lost on Hair, who decided he could fill the void by
painting fast and bringing the paintings to the customers at a
better price, $35 to Backus’s $350 or more. With that kind of
volume, he could make more money than he ever dreamed.
Perhaps, he told others, enough to buy a Cadillac, and maybe
even to become a millionaire by the time he was 35.
He started his enterprise in his backyard on Dunbar Street
where he lived with Doretha and their children in Fort Pierce.
(Earlier paintings have his 13th Street address, where he lived
with his mother, stamped on them.) He produced paintings
in hours with simple embellishments like his easily recognized
“fast grass,” quickly applied strokes of the pallet knife
to imitate Florida saw grass.
“Alfred Hair did not copy Backus,” says Lightle. “He took
off like a skyrocket. He said he was not going to be bound by >>
ROGER LIGHTLE COLLECTION
Who could resist the turquoise seas and the glow of peach skies as shown
in this seascape by Alfred Hair? The colorful landscapes enjoyed a rediscovery
in the early 2000s when the Highwaymen were inducted into the
Florida Humanities Council Artists Hall of Fame. (Oil on Upson board.)