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Tropical Light: The Art of A. E. Backus

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Painter A. E. Backus (1906–1990) portrayed an unspoiled Florida that has made his paintings synonymous with the state: backcountry terrain is often described as “Backus landscape,” emotive clouds as “Backus sky,” and translucent waves as “Backus water.” As more and...
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Painter A. E. Backus (1906–1990) portrayed an unspoiled Florida that has made his paintings synonymous with the state: backcountry terrain is often described as “Backus landscape,” emotive clouds as “Backus sky,” and translucent waves as “Backus water.” As more and more of the state’s wilderness is lost to development, Backus’s paintings emerge as poetic testaments of Florida’s lost paradise. Defining his artistic roots as “part Cracker and part Monet,” Backus was drawn to tropical nature as defined by light, which he rendered using complementary colors. His avant-garde use of a palette knife to create entire compositions produced paintings that combined a sensitive observation of nature with gestural paint application. Backus excelled at capturing the essence of traditional Florida: rustic fishing camps, magnificent beaches, tidal rivers fringed with palms and mangroves, and the abrupt changes in the weather that characterize Florida’s tropical light to both natives and visitors. This is a lush celebration of the life and work of a remarkable regional painter.

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