Everglades sunsets, sun drenched beaches, sweeping panoramas, vigorous thunderstorms, and other richly detailed scenes characterize the passionate work of Albert Ernest "Beanie" Backus.
Born in 1906 in Fort Pierce, Florida, Backus was encouraged from a very early age by his parents to become involved with the arts. At six years of age, Backus was given a set of watercolors by his mother and was thus introduced to the world of painting. It was also during his early childhood that he was given the nickname Bean by a neighbor who noticed his fondness for all types of beans.
Backus spent his childhood sketching and painting the environments around his home. In 1924, just before he was set to graduate, Backus left high school to earn money so that he could attend Parsons School of Design and Art in New York. The lessons he received in New York were the only formal art training Backus ever experienced.
Upon his return to Fort Pierce, Backus kept busy by painting murals in restaurants, backdrops for local theaters, and views of land developments for real estate speculators. The local land boom eventually lost momentum and the artist quickly lost his major source of income.
Convinced that he still wanted to lead an artist's life, Backus held his first exhibition in 1931, sponsored by local patron Dorothy Binney Palmer. He continued to show his work and sell paintings at regional art shows for $5 and $10 per painting. Acknowledgment was slow at first, but steadily grew until, in 1938, the Florida Federation of Arts bestowed upon Backus the coveted "Bemis" award. A.E. "Bean" Backus had officially stepped into the light of national recognition.
Following a stint with the military during World War II, Backus began to travel throughout the state to exhibit his work. He created an entire new clientele at shows like the Miami Woman's Club annual exhibition and the Fairchild Tropical Gardens Art Show. Patrons were purchasing groups of Backus' paintings because of his ability to portray nature with such passion and vigor. On Saturdays, Backus could be found conducting free art lessons out of his studio to art students from all generations, backgrounds, and races. He believed that his talent was a gift and should therefore be shared with all.
In 1950, Backus was wed to Patsy Hutchinson. For five years their marriage was filled with love and happiness, but in 1955, Patsy tragically passed away during open heart surgery. Overcome with grief and a desire to reflect on his life, Backus traveled throughout the Caribbean, capturing on canvas the vivid scenes he visited.
After returning to Florida, Backus had steady commission work that continued up to his death in 1990, at the age of 84. Albert Ernest "Bean" Backus will be remembered as a tremendous landscape painter with a masterful ability to capture the mood and likeness of the state in which he lived. Backus truly is one of Florida's great artists.