Despite his role as an original Florida Highwaymen painter, and his notoriety as brother to famed Highwaymen artist Harold Newton, little has been published over the years about Lemuel Newton. Born in 1950 and the youngest of the three Newton brothers who are recognized as Highwaymen artists, Newton was raised in Tifton, Ga. but little else is known about his childhood.
16 years Lemuel’s senior, Harold Newton left Tifton for Fort Pierce, Fla. in 1950, the year of Lemuel’s birth. While the influence Harold had over his younger brother as an artist is clear in Lemuel’s teenage years, very little is known about his childhood in Georgia.
Newton joined his older brother in Fort Pierce as a teenager sometime in the 60s, where he and fellow Highwaymen painter Willie Reagan began earning some money by preparing artist Alfred Hair’s Upson board surfaces, eventually moving on to learning to paint from his brother Harold. “He greatly admired his older brother,” The Highwaymen Trail, a heritage trail organization run by the city of Fort Pierce and the Florida Humanities Council, reports. “Sam and I wouldn’t know nothing about painting if it weren’t for Harold. All the painters wouldn’t know nothing about painting if it weren’t for Harold,” he told Highwayman biographer Gary Moore.
Much like his brothers, Newton was a careful painter who cared about the quality of his work. He painted typical Highwaymen scenes of flame trees, swamps, palms, beaches, and sunsets with great attention to detail, and was adept with utilizing warm and inviting color palettes in his work. It is unclear if Newton stopped painting at sometime in the 70s or 80s, as many Highwaymen did when tastes changed and the Highwaymen aesthetic was no longer en vogue, but sources do indicate that he continued to paint in an “American-Realist/Impressionist” style later in his life.
Inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 2004, Lemuel Newton died in Texas on October 30, 2014 at the age of 64.