Welcome to the Artists of Old Florida website. I’m Alfred Frankel and I’ve been studying the history of art in Florida for over thirty years. My research has taken me to every major library in the state and resulted in two as yet unpublished books, The Artists of Old Florida, 1840-1960, and A Dictionary of Florida Artists, 1840-1960. This website will bring my books before the public, and attempt to revive the memory of the thousands of Florida artists, many academically trained, who spent their lives working here.
Florida artists left a lost treasure that can be found today in the collections of Sam and Robie Vickers of Jacksonville, and Cici and Hyatt Brown in Daytona Beach. The Vickers were the first to appreciate the importance of Florida art to the state. If you visit the Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art in Daytona Beach you will see great works of Florida art. I hope this website and my books, describing in detail the state’s art history, will be, like the Vickers Collection, and the Brown Museum, another summoning call inspiring Floridians with a new appreciation for their artistic heritage.
I am an emergency physician: during my years of research I worked in the emergency department at Northside Hospital in St. Petersburg. I’m now in the emergency department at the C.W. Bill Young, Bay Pines Veterans Hospital in St. Petersburg. Collecting and researching Florida art has been the perfect balance to life in the ER.
I have always loved art. When I was a boy growing up in Brooklyn, my uncle Jack, a Sunday painter, lined the walls of his home with artworks. I loved to visit, fascinated by the color and the smell of oil paint. Art began to have value for me then.
My family moved to Hollywood, Florida in 1949. Hollywood was a special place. Florida was still relatively undeveloped. The war was over, the country proud of its place in the world, and all of Florida so innocent. There were only 25,000 people living there when I began the seventh grade at Hollywood Central School. After the streets of Brooklyn, I thought I had moved to heaven. Tropical flowers, hibiscus, coconut palms, delivering the Hollywood Sun-Tattler, the fragrant sweet air, the cool after a summer shower, beach parties in high school, football on Friday nights next to full tomato fields, submarine races at Dania Beach–all of this sank into my subconscious, and I was happy. Florida was my home. My New York accent disappeared, replaced by a gentle southern “howdy,” “yes ma’am,” and “y’all.”
Later in college at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, an engineering school in upstate New York, there was little time for art, but on the walls of my room hung prints of Winslow Homer’s Eight Bells, Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World, and the inevitable Van Gogh’s Starry Night. After medical school in Albany, New York and a year in Vietnam with the Marine Corps as a navy doctor, I moved back to Brooklyn to begin training as an orthopedic surgeon. Needing to decorate an apartment on the limited salary of a resident, I began to search the antique shops of upstate New York for inexpensive art and antiques. Collecting art and antiques helped take me away from a busy practice in orthopedic surgery. Envying the life style of doctors working in the emergency department, in 1980 I decided to return to Florida and a new career in emergency medicine.
My love of art, especially American art, continued here in Florida. In 1981 I met Tampa antiques dealer Michael Turbeville. Mike sold me my first Florida painting. By Sam Stoltz, it depicted a flamingo and an egret in flight, side by side, over the Everglades. I loved it. Later I purchased wonderful Florida paintings by Dewing Woodward, Emmaline Buchholz, Asa Cassidy, and Howard Hilder. But always questions. Who were these people? When and where did they work? Where were they from and where did they study? What kind of people were they? There were no books on the history of art in Florida to answer these questions. If I wanted to know more, I would have to find the answers myself.
And so it began: my search to understand art development in Florida and learn about the artists who worked here in the years before I graduated from South Broward High, in Hollywood, in 1956. This book and website are about what I learned.
The website has five main pages, including a Florida Art Gallery, with at present, paintings from my collection. I hope others will send examples of their Florida art for inclusion in the Gallery. Meet the Artists contains my articles first published in Antiques and Art Around Florida, and the biographies of over 100 early Florida artists; chosen by me based on their relative importance and availability of examples of their work from my collection. Over time I will continue to add artists.
About the book. Artists of Old Florida, 1840-1960, with 466 pages and extensive footnotes, has nineteen chapters including a general art history of Florida and chapters on the art history of St. Augustine; Pensacola; Jacksonville; Tallahassee; Gainesville; Key West; Miami; Ft. Lauderdale; Palm Beach; Daytona Beach; DeLand; Orlando; Tampa; St. Petersburg; Clearwater; Bradenton; Sarasota; and Ft. Myers. The book is only available as an eBook. Someday I hope to publish hard copies of both The Artists of Old Florida and The Dictionary of Florida Artists. The Dictionary, like Meet the Artists, contains the biographies of thousands of artists who worked in Florida in the years 1840-1960.
The study and collecting of Florida art has been a joyful experience: giving me a sense of purpose, and a deeper appreciation for life. With the publication of this website I feel like an evangelist tugging at your sleeve, saying, “Look at this, its important, and beautiful too!”
Alfred R. Frankel
St. Petersburg, 2015