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Warren Rollins

 (1861 - 1962)
Warren Eliphalet Rollins was active/lived in New Mexico, California, Arizona, Nevada.  Warren Rollins is known for desert landscape and Indian portrait and genre painting.

Warren Rollins

Biography from the Archives of askART

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 the early 1900s, Rollins spent a year in Arizona painting the Hopi, Navajo and Zuni Indians; these studies became very popular.  His constant search for new subject matter took him to Taos, 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.

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.


Ainsworth, Ed.  The Cowboy in Art. New York: The World Publishing Company. 1968.

Coke, Van Deren.  Taos and Santa Fe.  Albuquerque: The University of New Mexico Press.  1963.

Dawdy, Doris Ostrander.  Artists of the American West:  A Biographical Dictionary.  [1974] 3 vols.  Chicago: Swallow Press.  1985.

Gibson, Arrell M.  The Santa Fe and Taos Colonies: Age of the Muses, 1900-1942.  Norman: Univesity of Oklahoma Press.  1983.

Harmsen, Dorothy.  Harmsen's Western Americana.  Denver, Colorado: Harmsen Publishing Company.  1971.

McKay, Mary-Terrence.  Personal Communication.  Director of the Trust for the Art of the West and Independent Curator for the Estate of Rollins since 1990. 1876 Calle Quedo; Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505; 505-438-3001.  3-11-99.  

Samuels, Peggy & Harold.  Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West.  New Jersey: Castle.  1985.

Taft, Robert.  Artists and Illustrators of the Old West 1850-1900.  New York: Bonanza Books, Crown Publishers, Inc.  1953.

Trenton, Pat.  Picturesque Images from Taos and Santa Fe.  The Denver Art Museum, January 12 - March 17, 1974.

Who's Who in American Art.  New York & London: R.R. Bowker    Company.  1980.

Biography from the Archives of askART
Born in Carson City, Nevada, Warren Rollins became known as the "Dean of the Santa Fe Art Colony" and was at the height of his career between 1908 and 1928. He was especially skilled at capturing the colors of the Southwest into his paintings.

He first went West as an itinerant sign painter. He trained at the San Francisco School of Design where he briefly served as Assistant Director. In 1887, he settled in San Diego, and during this period, he became interested in Indian subject matter. He and his wife and two daughters then traveled through every Western state from Mexico to Canada, and in Montana, he did a portrait of Calamity Jane. During the sitting, she drank and wept and told him her story, and this portrait, treasured because it was the only one ever done of her, was lost in a fire at the Billings Club.

By 1893, he was in Taos, then one of only four Anglo artists there, and he later returned where he had a studio near his close friend, E.I. Couse. In 1900, he spent a year in Arizona painting among the Hopi Indians and later the Navajo and Zuni tribes. The next year he began a commission for two historical paintings of the the Lewis and Clark Exposition. He painted the Grand Canyon so much that Santa Fe Railroad personnel built him a cabin on the rim at Paradise Point. Many of his paintings are in the Railroad collection.

He settled in Santa Fe and earned a prestigious reputation as a teacher of art at the Palace of the Governors. He served as first president of the Santa Fe Art Club. His works were among the earliest to be shown at the new Museum of New Mexico, and his work appeared in about twenty-five exhibitions in Santa Fe between 1916 and 1977. He also did murals for the Museum as well as the post office and Bishops Lodge. He died at the age of 100 in Winslow, Arizona.

Sources include: American Art Review, August 2004

Biography from the Archives of askART
Born in Carson City, NV on Aug. 8, 1861, Warren Rollins was raised in Antioch, CA and showed artistic talent at an early age.  About 1878, he moved to San Francisco where he studied under Virgil Williams at the School of Design for three years; he later served as assistant director of that school after winning several gold medals.

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 the Hopi, Crow, and Blackfeet tribes and was one of the first painters to be admitted to their ceremonies.

In 1910 he moved to the Arroyo Seco in Pasadena and the following year built a studio in San Gabriel where he lived until his move to Santa Fe, NM in 1917.  The Santa Fe Railroad 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."

As well as southwestern scenes, he also painted a few marines.  During WWII he lived with his daughter in Baltimore.  Rollins died in Winslow, AZ on Jan. 15, 1962.

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).

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

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).

Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, V
Early member of Santa Fe artists colony, painter of Indians, teacher

Warren E. Rollins was raised in California.  He was the pupil of Virgil Williams at the San Francisco School of Design, becoming assistant director of the school.  In 1887, after further study in the East, he moved to San Diego.  He began to specialize in Indian subjects, traveling through the Western states.  In 1900 he was in Arizona painting Hopi Canyon ruins in northern New Mexico and had a studio near El Tovar at the Grand Canyon.

Rollins was an early member of the Santa Fe art colony, along with Carlos Vierra, Gerald Cassidy, Kenneth Chapman, and Sheldon Parson, arriving in 1915 through his friendship with E.I. Couse.  He had previously spent years at Pueblo Bonita, New Mexico.

Rollins had the first formal exhibition in Santa Fe, showing Indian paintings before 1910, so that he was properly regarded as the "dean of the Santa Fe art colony."  Rollins had a period when he favored working in crayon, an oddity matched by other Western painters like Groll and Kihn.  In the 1940s, Rollins moved to Baltimore where he drew crayon seascapes.

Peggy and Harold Samuels, 1985, Castle Publishing

Biography from Mark Sublette Medicine Man Gallery
Warren Rollins was born and raised in California. He studied under Virgil Williams at the San Francisco School of Design, eventually becoming the Associate Director of the school. After studying in the East, Rollins moved to San Diego, where he began to paint Indian scenes, basing his work on his travels in the western states.

These Indian scenes became quite popular and, in 1917, the Santa Fe Railroad gave him a studio in El Tovar where he could paint the Grand Canyon. He traveled extensively in New Mexico, being amongst the first white artists in Santa Fe. His first painting show in Santa Fe were before 1910, and he moved there for the first time in 1915, encouraged to do so by his friend E.I. Couse.

He exhibited often in Santa Fe, having twenty-five exhibitions between 1916 and 1977. He was known as "The Dean of the Santa Fe Art Colony," and was commissioned for both commercial and consumer pieces, including a portrait of Calamity Jane that hung in the Billings Club until it was destroyed in a fire. He taught at the Palace of the Governors and served as the Santa Fe Art Club's first president. In the 1940s he spent time in Baltimore creating seascapes, predominantly in crayon. He died at the age of 100 in Winslow, AZ.

Biography from William A. Karges Fine Art - Santa Monica
Warren Rollins was born in Carson City, Nevada, in 1861, and raised in northern California, where he showed artistic talent at an early age.  Following study at the San Francisco School of Design (at which he'd later serve as Assistant Director), Rollins traveled throughout the southwest, living with a number of Native American Tribes.

From 1910-1917, Rollins lived and painted in Pasadena until the Santa Fe Railroad Company lured him to Arizona with a studio on the Grand Canyon.  Often called "the dean of Santa Fe and Taos Art colonies," Rollins died in Arizona in 1962.

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About  Warren Rollins

Born:  1861 - Carson City, Nevada
Died:   1962 - Winslow, Arizona
Known for:  desert landscape and Indian portrait and genre painting