Harold Newton is considered by some to be the founder of the Florida Highwaymen. He was born in Gifford, Florida in 1934. In 1954 the 20 year old young and unknown artist began travelling throughout the state to paint and sell his works. Harold Newton had a keen sense of family; he sold his paintings, door-to-door and from the trunk of his car, to support his family's needs. His two brothers Sam and Lem soon followed suit, and his daughter paints tribute art. He painted until 1993 when he suffered a stroke, and left a large body of work that some estimate to be as many as 40,000 paintings, at his death in June 1994.
Harold Newton paintings are primarily coastal landscapes, and many have come to be representative of Florida's beauty. Newtons often depict trees, sea and sky. Newton was especially known for his use of dramatic colour contrasts, combining pastels with darker shadowed areas. His brush strokes make each landscape seem to be viewed through salty ocean spray. Overall his work is mildly impressionistic, much like a memory of a scene glimpsed along his travels. Errors are common in highwaymen pieces as the works were often sold while the oils were still wet.
Early Harold Newton paintings are painted in oil on Upson board or Masonite, because the materials were less expensive than canvas for the young artist. Later paintings are sometimes oils on stretched canvas. Like many of the highwaymen artists he often used building materials to reduce production costs, including house paint and home made easels. Harold Newton paintings are known for unusual framing choices, including crown moulding.
Harold Newton paintings were designed to appeal to the common man, and Harold originally sold each one for about $25. Today the same art often sells for thousands of dollars, and Newton's Art is highly valued by collectors. The art has become a documentation of Florida's expansion and preservation of its beauty, and for this reason Harold Newton and 25 other Florida Highwaymen artists were inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of fame in 2004.