Although one of the lesser-known Florida Highwaymen painters, John Maynor’s career as an artist within the group brought him fame later in life and, eventually, a place among the most noted painters in the U.S. with the installation of his work Two Egrets in a Swamp, Poinciana Trees into the permanent collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C.
Born in Springfield, Ga. in 1948, Maynor’s grandparents moved the family to Fort Pierce, Fla. in 1957, where Maynor grew up among the artists who would become known as the Highwaymen. “I always wanted to paint,” Maynor told The Highwaymen Trail, a heritage trail organization run by the city of Fort Pierce and the Florida Humanities Council, in an interview just a year before his death. The Highwaymen Trail notes that Maynor was uninterested in school beyond science and art, and that his childhood drawings of the Lone Ranger and Tonto, cowboys and Indians, Roy Rogers, and Bugs Bunny showed his talent from an early age.
Fort Pierce afforded the budding young artist ample opportunity to learn more from the painters around him, and he especially sought out Alfred Hair, one of the painters along with Harold Newton credited with founding the Highwaymen style of painting and selling. But it was artists Livingston Roberts and Sam Newton who served as Maynor’s most influential teachers. Schooling him their style of “fast painting,” Maynor caught on quickly and was soon selling his work on the road with Hair and noted Highwaymen salesman and artist Al Black.
Thanks to a Job Corps program grant that allowed him to undertake training as a sign painter at a school in San Marco, Tex., Maynor continued to work as a commercial artist throughout his life once the initial demand for the Highwaymen aesthetic waned and tastes changed in the 70s and early 80s. According to The Highwaymen Trail, Maynor’s signs have advertised businesses in and around Fort Pierce for decades.
Known for his traditional Highwaymen scenes of Florida’s landscapes and ocean views including birds, swamps, seascapes, and Poinciana trees, Maynor’s individual style often featured a textured rendering of trees using thick layers of paint applied with a palette knife, as well as an application of linseed oil to give his water scenes a sense of shimmer and movement.
“Maynor was a true artist,” Susan Harris, coordinator of an annual Highwaymen art show in Fort Pierce, told the TC Palm in 2016. “When he painted, some of his work was so modern it seemed almost abstract. He was one-of-a-kind.”
Inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 2004, John Maynor died in Fort Pierce on February 2, 2016 at the age of 67. Highwaymen expert and author Gary Monroe told TC Palm in the 2016 article remembering Maynor’s life that although Maynor was less known than other Highwaymen, he was a prolific painter who still produced paintings every day until his death. “Maynor was very humble,” Moore said. “He was very unaffected by the fame the Highwaymen eventually received and he always appreciative when he was recognized.”