Julius C. Rolshoven

American Artist; (1858-1930)

Julius Rolshoven (28 October 1858 – 7 December 1930) was born and raised in Detroit. At 18 he went to New York City to study at the Cooper Union Art School, then in 1878 he left for Germany to the Düsseldorf Academy, then studying under the Kentucky-born artist Frank Duveneck in his Venice and Florence schools, becoming one of the “Duveneck Boys”. After some years in Paris and London, he married Anna Chickering (1859-1896) of the piano manufacturing family. Sadly Anna died of pneumonia on December 5, 1896 in London, so he returned to Italy and practiced portrait and genre painting, and continued teaching.     

Rolshoven decided to settle in Florence in 1902. In 1905, while he was drawing outdoors, he discovered a building that had maintained the old charm of a castle, called Castello del Diavolo (Devil’s Castle) that belonged to the family Talani. The artist was so enthusiastic of the environment that in 1907 he bought the property in a state of disrepair. He lived for years in Florence, Italy, his adopted home, re-converting the 900-year-old home, “Castello del Diavolo” into an estate so splendid that an impressed Italian Government designated it as a national monument. The newly renovated home was the former residence of Lisa Gherardini, the model for Leonardo Da Vinci’s most famous work of art, the Mona Lisa.

In late 1920, Rolshoven returned to the USA at the beginning of World War I. In December 1915 he married his second wife Harriette Haynes Blazo (1876-1964) in Los Angeles. By 1916 Rolshoven had settled in the American Southwest, setting up a studio in Santa Fe’s Governor’s Palace. He was also a member of the Taos Society of Artists. But for his accidental absence from a famous historic photograph of the Taos Society of Artists (TSA), of which he was a very early member (Associate Member in 1917 and Full Member in 1918), Rolshoven  would be considerably better known today.                                                                  

American artist Julius Rolshoven in his Paris studio circa 1885-1890

Rolshoven’s artistic ability was acknowledged to be equal to or better than the other members of the Taos Society and he was, in fact, invited to join the TSA before such luminaries as Ernest Hennings, Walter Ufer, Victor Higgins and Kenneth Adams. Rolshoven lived inTaos and painted in New Mexico for a short time only, from 1916 to 1920. During these years he was the senior and most experienced member of the TSA, followed by J. H. Sharp who was one year younger. Rolshoven divided his time between Santa Fe and Florence, Italy, where his home was the former residence of Lisa Gherardini, the model for Leonardo Da Vinci’s most famous work of art, the Mona Lisa. In late 1920, Rolshoven left Taos to return to his former home in Italy, where he spent the rest of his life. His work is known for its bold, fluid brushwork, graphic composition and saturated, light-filled colour palette.

Rolshoven was considered particularly accomplished in the medium of pastels, and his striking Taos and Santa Fe pastel pieces are some of his freshest and most beautiful works. Compared with the other members of the Taos Society, almost all of whom painted in New Mexico for decades, Rolshoven’s works are quite scarce, difficult to find and rarely available for sale. 

Rokshoven took ill shipboard in the Atlantic on route to New York City and died at St. Lukes Hospital in Manhattan on December 7th, 1930. He was on voyage to see his 92 year old mother for Christmas in Detroit, Michigan. She died the same day.

In September 1957, Harriette B. Rolshoven, widow of the artist, donated to the University of New Mexico, $100,000. She also donated twenty works made by her husband, estimated at the time to be worth between $50,000 and $75,000. Harriette died in Santa Fe, in 1964. 

Select Collections: Rolshoven works can be found in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, NY; The Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, Michigan; Detroit Historical Museum, Detroit, Michigan; The Brooklyn Art Museum, Brooklyn, New York; The National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC, (The Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC); The Santa Fe Art Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico; The El Paso Museum of Art, El Paso, Texas; The Newark Museum, Newark, New Jersey. 

Most recent auction sales of Rolshoven art/paintings; “Field of Poppies” 1887 oil on canvas – 33”x 54” sold at Sotheby’s New York, December 3, 1998 – Lot 2 for $277,500 USD; “Sun Arrow” oil on canvas – 36”x 28” sold at Heritage Auctions Dallas Texas, May 24, 2007 – Lot 24022 for $77,680.00 USD;  “Assisi Market Girl” oil on canvas – 56”x 45” sold at Christie’s New York, November 29, 2007 – Lot 53 for $181,000.00 USD; “Indian Dancer” oil on panel – 27”x 15” sold at Santa Fe Art Auction New Mexico December 4, 2016 – Lot 229 for $70,000 USD; and “Taos Warriors” oil on canvas – 34”x 43” sold at Santa Fe Art Auction New Mexico, December 4, 2016 – Lot 231 for $150,000 USD.


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