(1905 - 1985)
Lotan Lotan was active/lived in Arizona, Indiana. Lotan Lotan is known for surrealism, landscape, mythology.
The following information was provided by Doug Rade of the "Art Barn" in Flagstaff, AZ to Fran Elliott of Prescott, who has handled some of the Lotan estate.
One of the all-time great characters of Arizona art is "Lotan Lotan", who with his wife, Ruth Lotan, produced a very large body of work in Arizona between 1950 and the mid '70s. His work is very collectible, especially his surreal style paintings.
Lotan (1900 - 1985), Prescott, AZ, was famous for having created a fictitious biography for himself, and often signed his paintings "Lotan Lotan, M.D., PhD.", although he possessed neither degree. He claimed to have studied at the Julian Academy in Paris, the Kaiser Frederick Museum in Berlin, and the National Academy of Design in New York, as well as private study with Frank Brangwyn in London. Nothing supports these claims.
His most often used medium was oil, however, he also used charcoal, pencil, watercolor and gouache. He called his style "conceptionalism" and his subject matter included scenes such as the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian or the dance of Salome against the background of the Arizona desert.
Lotan taught art in Prescott, Arizona, having moved there with his artist wife, Ruth, from Chicago, Illinois. His work is in the collection of the late Walter Bimson of Valley National Bank in Phoenix and C. Weyland Brooks, former U.S. Senator. He claimed to have been commissioned to paint a portrait of Calvin Coolidge's wife, as well as murals in Kensington Castle.
Little is known about Lotan Lotan prior to 1952 when he arrived in Arizona in an MG accompanied by his girlfriend Ruth and their pet Bulldog, Sir Oliver Cedric. Ruth, who would later become his wife, was also an artist. In a letter that same year to California artist Claude Buck, Lotan claims to be "living in the middle of the desert painting like never before." He goes on to state in the letter the he had recently changed his name to Lotan Lotan because it was part of "loosing (sic) the past and becoming an entirely new person . . .doing my best to create a new painting as well as a new personality."
Lotan evidently had no problem stretching the truth to help create his new persona. During his Arizona years he typically signed his paintings "Lotan Lotan, PHD, MD" even though he was neither a PHD or a Medical Doctor. Throughout his life he claimed to have received degrees in medicine and a PHD in art from the University of Berlin in 1926. In a 1966 interview with The Carefree Enterprise he recounts how he used to operate a medical clinic and a portrait studio side by side in London. "At the same time I was treating the social outcasts of the Soho district, I was also receiving portrait commissions from the royalty and political nobility of Europe and America." He goes on in the interview to state that he did commissioned portraits of King George V of England, President Warren Harding, Mrs. Calvin Coolidge, and General John Pershing. None of this has ever been substantiated and it is in all likelihood false. He also claimed at various times to have studied at the Julian Academy in Paris, the Kaiser Frederick Museum in Berlin, and the National Academy of Design in New York. No evidence has ever been found to validate these claims.
In spite of Lotan's elaborate fabrications about his past certain biographical aspects are known for sure. He was born Lotan S. Welshans on June 19, 1905 in Danville, Indiana. (Source: birth certificate) Lotan noted on numerous occasions that he was "born on a farm in Indiana." This seems to be one case where he told the truth. Records list his mother as Anna Laurel Worthington-Jenkins and his father as "Unknown". He attended Provisio Township High School in Illinois where he graduated in 1924. (Source: High School records.) After high school he attended the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts(CAFA) from July 1924 to June 1926. Although he never graduated, records show he did complete almost 2500 hours of course work. It's interesting to note that, particularly given Lotan's history of hyping and fabricating his past accomplishments, he was never known to mention the fact that he attended the CAFA, a fine school in its own right.
In the late 1920's he most likely worked as a commercial illustrator for an advertising firm with ties to the automobile industry. Illustrated advertisements for Rolls-Royce and Mercedes-Benz from the late 20's signed "Lotan Welshans" are known to exist.
1930 Census records show that Lotan was a resident of Cook County, Illinois. Several WPA era paintings signed Lotan Welshans are also known to exist. So although little is known about his life in the 1930's he was definitely spending time painting.
In the same letter to Claude Buck where he tells of his efforts to recreate himself, he mentions serving in the Naval Ordinance Department during World War II as well as "the trying years trying to run an art school in Chicago" following the war. He then mentions the dissolution of his marriage and finally his move to Arizona.
Shortly after his arrival in Arizona, Lotan married Ruth. For several years they lived in Scottsdale under the name Lotan and Ruth Ateliers. Then in the late 1950's they moved to Cave Creek where they lived for nearly fifteen years. During this time the Lotans often bartered their art work in exchange for rent. For many of these years they lived next door to John Wade Hampton, one of the founders of the Cowboy Artists of America (CAA). During this time Lotan worked out of a studio in the Elbow Bend area of Carefree which he called "L'Atelier". Lotan painted several murals during this time, including an eight foot by forty foot mural for the Maricopa County Health Building.
Lotan has been called the "Dali of the Desert" on numerous occasions. Although many of his paintings from the Arizona years are of traditional Western themes, Lotan described his style as "conceptualism". A typical painting might have included scenes such as the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian or the dance of Salome against the background of the Arizona desert. One of his better known paintings shows two beautiful women sunbathing nude while drinking martinis in front of the Superstition Mountains. Describing his inspiration for the painting, Lotan stated that "Everyone is always talking about finding a lost gold mine in a mountain that has no gold-bearing rock formation." Lotan found it just as reasonable to assume one could discover "two beautiful nude sun bathers discussing Plato, while having Martinis".
According to Fran Elliott of the Arizona Historical Art Museum, Ruth was more of a classical-traditional painter who preferred to work in water color. She did many known scenes of the West and Mexico. After working her way through college at Indiana State by doing commercial work, she also received some formal training at the Chicago Art Institute. Ruth was known to do several commissioned portraits including several portraits of various U.S. Army officers. In fact, personal correspondence seems to suggest that her first husband was a Colonel in the Army. A series of paintings depicting WAC's at work were exhibited at the Pentagon. She also worked as a reporter and art director for a Phoenix newspaper.
In 1971 Ruth was suffering from a terminal illness. The couple entered into a bizarre suicide pact which was to include the killing of their two bulldogs. Ruth followed through and Lotan killed the dogs but could not bring himself to complete the agreement.
Shortly after the incident, Lotan moved to Prescott where he continued to paint and teach for another ten years. He was the cover artist for the Frontier Days program in 1982.
Lotan died at the Pioneers Home in Prescott in 1985. There was no contact with any known relatives at the time of his death.
There is a discrepancy in the recording of his birth date. However, as Gary Fillmore points out: "I have a copy of Lotan's birth certificate which lists his birth date as 1905. Yet Lotan himself was known on several occasions to list his birth date as 1900. As you can see from the bio, he frequently fabricated aspects of his past life. In addition to his birth certificate I have a copy of his high school records which indicate he graduated in 1924. If he was born in 1905 this would seem about right."