The following information was compiled and submitted by Melinda Rohland Meister, great niece of the artist:
Born in Richmond, Virginia, March 11, 1884, Paul Hermann Rohland was the fourth of seven sons. His great grandfather, J.H. Ficht, a German immigrant, was a New York fresco painter and artist, as was his great uncle, O.C. Ficht, and Rohland inherited the family talent. At the age of 14, he began working for the Christopher Engraving Company in Richmond as a photo-engraver, and enrolled in evening art classes at the Virginia Mechanics Institute. In 1902 he went to New York City and took evening art classes at the New York Art Students League, studying under Robert Henri. During this time he probably worked at Beck's Engraving as a copper etcher. A maternal aunt financed his art studies in Europe, where he studied for several years, primarily in southern France. By 1910 he had returned to New York and again attended the Art Students League.
Early Woodstock Years
Rohland was one of the early members of the artists' colony in Woodstock, New York, founded in 1903 by a group of artistic idealists, Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead, his wife, Jane Byrd McCall, the writer, Hervey White and the artist, Bolton Brown. With its proximity to New York City and views of the Hudson, the site was the perfect place for artists, including painters, sculptors, photographers, musicians, writers, and even furniture-makers, to experiment with new and often radical ideas. It is possible that Rohland first went to Woodstock for the Art Students League summer classes offered there, but by 1913, he was considered an active Woodstock artist, along with Bolton Brown, Andrew Dasburg, his wife, Grace Mott Johnson, a sculptor, and a fellow painter, William Schumacher.
The Armory Show
The International Exhibition of Modern Art, usually referred to as the Armory Show, took place at the 69th Regiment in New York City on February 17, 1913. It was conceived and planned by the Association of American Painters and Sculptors who sought to introduce the very latest in European art to the American public. Along with hundreds of other unknown artists, Rohland had not been among those initially invited to enter the show. Because of the great demand, the Association finally agreed to review from January 20 to 26 the work of artists who wished to exhibit. After examining several hundred submissions, the Domestic Committee accepted, among others, works by Bluemner, Becker, Dasburg, Stella and Hopper, as well as three oils by Paul Rohland, One, entitled Still Life, was one of the fewer than 700 works sent on to Chicago. After the Armory Show, the work of Rohland’s colleagues, Dasburg, Cramer and McFee, among others, developed in a radically modern direction. However, Rohland’s work continued to be solidly "representational" throughout his career
Later Woodstock Years, 1915-1936
Around 1915, Rohland met and married Caroline Speare, a fellow artist. Trained at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and a member of the Art Students League, it is possible that she came to Woodstock to work with liberated women artists like Dewing Woodward and Grace Mott Johnson, who gathered there. According to Woodstock records, by the early 20s the couple was living perhaps for little or nothing on "The Maverick," a separate colony several miles away from Woodstock, founded in 1906 by Hervey White. The colony, started as a center of social thought and offering only Spartan living conditions, later became known for its bohemian atmosphere. Its masquerade festivals featured bootlegged liquor and were referred to as "bacchanalian routs." The Rohlands were well known for their participation in these festivals.
Even the social consciousness of his colleagues on Maverick had little effect on Rohland’s work. His painting simply developed from the tight, traditional landscapes of his academic work to more fluid landscapes where light and dark rather than sharp lines formed the images. His watercolors were sunny and bright; his oils more moody and somber. His subject matter was wherever he found it: France, New York, South Carolina, Louisiana, the Caribbean, New Mexico, and California. But his paintings of the south, with their waving palm trees and weather-beaten houses, and his paintings of the southwest, with sun-baked adobe dwellings, most define his landscape work. Jean Paul Slusser wrote in Arts, June, 1928, that "His palette has the colors of the southern landscape - earth-blond ochres and reds, wine browns and crimsons, purple grays and blacks, with for relief, citron yellow or silvery olive and, more rarely, cobalt or cerulean blue."
His still lifes have the same qualities. The majority, mostly oils, are of floral arrangements of dahlias, chrysanthemums, anemones, poppies and zinnias, all in rich oranges, yellows and pinks. In the Barnes Foundation Museum, one small, bright monotype of poppies in a vase hangs next to a Mary Cassatt watercolor. When Barnes purchased the piece along with four other monotypes, he penciled a note to Rohland saying that “they successfully competed in cheerfulness and charm with a bright crisp day.” Again, Schlusser puts it best when he says, "Only a temperament as native to the sun and the soil as the flowers themselves could have produced them [his works]; they are a celebration of the joys of color and form by a painter who has no other prepossession than that of seeing happily, of employing to the full the pleasures of the eye."
In his landscapes, both watercolor and oil, human figures, if any, are incidental to the piece, and are often painted with a few quick strokes. Houses, buildings and the scenery are dominant. In copies of the three portraits, Girl's Head, 1929 and In the Garden, and Nude, that are available to study, his figures, all of women, are pensive and odalisque in style.
Rohland was also skilled in the art of woodcuts, a medium encouraged in the Maverick, along with lithography. Perhaps following the lead of Emil Ganso, Rohland created strong, balanced woodcuts. Records of his woodcuts include a landscape that was exhibited in the Whitney Studio Galleries exhibition of 1933, and a woman bearing a bowl of fruit, printed on rice paper, dated 1923, originally created for several issues of the Hue and Cry art magazine published in Woodstock during the early twenties. A recent exhibition at Vassar College in 2003 featured one of his woodcuts.
During the 20’s and early 30’s the Rohlands often left their home in Woodstock to travel and work in South Carolina, Puerto Rico, Louisiana, and New Mexico. To earn money for European trips, Rohland would often work as a copper etcher for the Beck Engraving Company in New York City, always saving enough in Europe to buy return passage. In Europe he and his wife worked with many of their Woodstock colleagues. In 1928, John Taylor describes meeting fourteen Woodstock artists in a café, among them, Paul and Caroline Rohland.
While in Europe, and certainly while they traveled or stayed in other parts of the United States, Juliana Force, director of the Whitney Studio Club, and later the Whitney Studio Gallery handled many of their exhibitions and sales. The Rohlands exhibited often at the Whitney Studio Club and then the Whitney Gallery. When it became the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1931, both artists were represented in the Museum's first Biennial exhibition, and Paul Rohland exhibited in the 3rd Biennel in 1936.
Rohland marketed his work mainly through exhibitions. In addition to the Whitney venue and a National Academy showing, he exhibited often with the Society of Independent Artists, Salons of America, and at the Corcoran, the Carnegie Institute, Art Institute of Chicago and many other museums.
Leaving Woodstock 1930
During the turmoil of the Depression, the Rohlands, like many artists, left Woodstock, possibly relocating in order to win commissions for WPA murals. From 1937 to 1939, Rohland executed three of these public projects. They first lived in New York City in Washington Place, as well as Patchen Place. In 1939 to 1940 they lived in Brooklyn in Columbia Heights near Jules Pascin, who painted a portrait of Rohland..
In 1941 they headed south with all their belongings piled in a Model T Ford, passing through Washington DC and then on to Beaufort, South Carolina, New Orleans and finally arriving in Santa Fe. Rohland suffered from worsening asthma, and the couple felt the change of climate would help. They took up residence in Santa Fe and from1942 to 1945 participated in the yearly Fiesta Shows. In 1946 Rohland exhibited at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Because of their stay in the west, both artists are considered by some art encyclopedias to be "western artists."
In 1945, Rohland and his wife went to California for his health. He died in Los Angeles on September 22, 1949. In reference works, his death date is incorrectly given as 1953.