Warren E. Rollins Biography

For many years Warren Eliphalet Rollins was known as the "Dean of the Santa Fe art colony."  He was the first artist to have a formal exhibition there; it was held in 1906 in the old Palace of the Governors.  He was a close friend of Carlos Vierra, Gerald Cassidy, Kenneth Chapman, Sheldon Parsons and most of the other famous artists who assembled in the New Mexican capital during the first half of this century.

Born in Carson City, Nevada, Rollins was raised in California and attended the San Francisco School of Design where he studied under Virgil Williams.  At the completion of his studies, he was awarded the Avery Gold Medal and made Assistant Director of the school.  Following his marriage in 1887, he and his wife settled in San Diego, and it was during this period that Rollins became interested in the Indian as subject matter.  In search of material, Rollins, his wife, and their two daughters, Ramona and Ruth, traveled through every Western state from the Mexican to the Canadian borders.  While in Montana, Rollins painted a portrait of Calamity Jane.  The sitting took place in a saloon, and while Rollins drew, Calamity drank, wept and poured out the story of her life to him.  The portrait was lost in a fire at The Billings Club.

In 1890 he operated an art school in Tacoma, WA, and during 1892-1902, he lived in Portland, OR.  Traveling constantly throughout the Southwest, he lived among and painted the Hopi, Crow, and Blackfeet tribes and was one of the first painters to be admitted to their ceremonies.  These studies became very popular.

In 1910 he moved to the Arroyo Seco in Pasadena and the following year built a studio in San Gabriel. His constant search for new subject matter took him to Taos in 1917, where he had a studio near his friend Irving Couse; to Chaco Canyon in northwestern New Mexico, sketching and painting its ancient ruins; and to the Grand Canyon where he had a studio near El Tovar.  His dramatic Canyon painting was purchased by the Santa Fe Railroad who had built a studio for him on the rim of the Grand Canyon and he became known as "The Dean of Taos and Santa Fe Art Colonies."

Rollins was the first president of the Santa Fe Art Club, and active in the Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe, which has an extensive collection of his work, including "Grief," one of his most famous paintings.  He did murals for the Museum, the post office and Harvey House in Gallup, and triptychs depicting Zuni life for Bishop's Lodge, Santa Fe.   His "Mayflower Series," done in Crayo-tone, a medium he developed and used almost exclusively in later years, was widely exhibited on the East Coast.   Warren E. Rollins continued painting well into his nineties and died at the age of one hundred years and five months in Winslow, Arizona.

Exhibitions:
San Francisco Art Association, 1883-87, 1903, 1905, 1912
Mechanics' Institute, San Francisco, 1887
Portland Art Club, 1890s
Royar Gallery (LA), 1911
Panama-California Expo, San Diego, 1915 (silver medal).

Collections:
Santa Fe Railroad; Nevada Museum (Reno); Huntington Gallery (San Marino); Oakland Museum (Alameda Shoreline, 1881); Museum of New Mexico; Orange Co. (CA) Museum.

Source:
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Who's Who in American Art 1947-59; Artists of the American West (Doris Dawdy); Artists and Illustrators of the Old West (Robert Taft); Artists of the American West (Samuels); The West As Art; Southern California Artists (Nancy Moure).