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Albert "Beany" Backus

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  • Keith Emmons
    Found this on the internet: Albert E. Backus: Florida Landscape Artist by: Glenn Firestone Albert Edward Backus was born in 1906. Two years prior to his birth,
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 26, 2000
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      Found this on the internet:

      Albert E. Backus: Florida Landscape Artist

      by: Glenn Firestone

      Albert Edward Backus was born in 1906. Two years prior to his birth,
      Backus' parents moved from New Jersey to the small and sparsely
      populated town of Fort Pierce, Florida. At the turn of the century,
      the Fort Pierce economy was strictly based on fishing and
      agriculture. This, in itself, is much of what we see in Backus'
      paintings: the unspoiled tropical landscapes and scenic countryside
      settings that would later be defiled by over development. At an early
      age, "Beanie" (as he was affectionately called by his family) had an
      affinity towards art. During his early years, Backus worked with
      watercolors, painting small pictures of scenic points of interest,
      portraits of friends and basically anything that would amuse the
      local townsfolk. His first major painting job was to paint backdrops
      in a local Fort Pierce theatre. Other commissions followed; however,
      the money he received was never much until he was encouraged to leave
      high school to help support his family. In 1931, America was in the
      grips of the depression. During this period, "Beanie" was encouraged
      by teachers, family and friends to have a one man show. To his
      astonishment, he was an immediate success. He later remarked, "I
      couldn't believe that people were willing to pay me $10 for a
      painting what with us having such a bad economy and all!" Modesty was
      almost always a Backus trademark.

      During the depression, Backus continued to paint as well as work at
      many local businesses to supplement his artist livelihood. Finally in
      1939, Backus first received national recognition. IBM, in association
      with the Golden Gate Exposition, sponsored an Art across the nation
      exhibit. Artists from the then 48 states were encouraged to enter, in
      their particular state, their finest work. Backus' work And Then
      There Was Light not only won the Florida State competition but also
      gained recognition at the national exposition. At this point, Backus
      knew he was destined to become a professional artist. In 1942, Backus
      enlisted in the navy and while on ship, painted and sketched as much
      as possible. Illness confined him to navy hospitals and for this
      reason, he was later discharged in 1945. With the war over, Backus
      concentrated on his life's work. His paintings of the Florida
      Everglades during the post war years are particulary dynamic. His use
      of light and sky coupled with his "palette knife'' technique gave the
      viewer a wonderfully new perspective of the land he had grown to
      love. Backus began to receive commission work; most significantly, a
      winter visitor by the name of Arthur De Yo ordered many works by the
      artist. Backus was still considered to be a regionalist painter.
      Aside from the occasional winter resident visiting his Fort Pierce
      studio, few outside of this particular area knew of him and of
      course, he realized this. In 1949, Backus decided he was ready to
      travel to Miami to exhibit his work. He was an immediate success.

      Miamians loved his lush tropical paintings featuring native flowering
      trees like the royal poinciana, coconut palms swaying in the warm
      South Florida winds, as well as his Everglades paintings featuring
      the omnipresent cattle egrets.

      In 1951, Backus fell in love and married a younger woman, his beloved
      Patsy. A few years later, tragedy struck as his wife died in the
      middle of open heart surgery. Backus was devastated. Although only a
      moderate drinker up to this point in his life, the loss of his wife
      drove him into a deep depression and gave him reason to increase his
      alcohol consumption. His commission work continued although his
      artistic style changed dramatically. Friends urged him to take a
      break and travel. Backus heeded their advice and left for the
      Caribbean. In 1957, he visited Jamaica and fell in love with its
      sheer natural beauty. Setting up a studio in the town of Port
      Antonio, Backus painted with the same renewed vigor that was
      displayed in his works painted prior to his wife's untimely death.
      Backus remained in Jamaica for several years until the worsened
      political situation forced him to return to Fort Pierce. After 1962,
      the demands for Backus' paintings increased to the extent that he had
      to abandon his palette knife style of painting. Although much of the
      volume of his work was brush style, the quality of his work did not
      diminish. His trademark "sky" was unmistakable. Commissions were at
      an all time high in the 1970's despite the fact that Backus' eyesight
      began to fail. In 1991, the effects of hard drinking finally took
      Backus' life. His artistic legacy will live on forever. Presently,
      his works can be found in the LBJ Texas library and the Georgia State
      Supreme Court. Although many notable artists have painted in Florida,
      Backus is one of the only artists who spent most of his life
      portraying its natural beauty that we, the people of Florida, are
      eternally grateful for.

      -Keith
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