Julius Rolshoven

(1858 - 1930)

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Julius Rolshoven was an expatriate artist whose aristocratic manner stood apart from the rough-and-tumble behavior of many Taos artists.  Yet his interest in conversation and artistic philosophy made him an active participant in the Taos Society of Artists, of which he became a member in 1917, at the age of fifty-nine.  Rolshoven’s own style was rooted in the late nineteenth century artistic principles of allegory and classicism, and his romantic paintings of Taos Indians won critical favor among traditional circles.  

Julius Rolshoven was born on October 28, 1858, in Detroit, to Frederick and Maria Theresa Rolshoven.  His father, a descendant from a long line of German goldsmiths, had founded one of Detroit’s leading jewelry firms.  Julius was an observant, sensitive child, and by his teenage years, an accomplished pianist intent on becoming his father’s apprentice.  Encouraged to concentrate on drawing in order to become a better engraver, Rolshoven developed an interest in art, which was intensified when his father took him to see the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia.  Later that year he moved to New York and enrolled at the Cooper Institute, but quickly persuaded his father to send him to Europe for more serious study.  In 1877 Rolshoven entered the Royal Academy of Fine Art in Dusseldorf.  The following Spring he traveled to Munich, expecting to enroll in the academy there, but found himself working at a nearby art colony headed by fellow American Frank Duveneck instead.  Duveneck’s fluid, spontaneous style was based on the Baroque master Franz Hals, and when he moved his studio to Italy, Rolshoven followed. In Italy, the “Duveneck boys,” as they were known, studied from Titian, Veronese, and Tintoretto, and were welcomed into the artistic circles of Florence and Venice. 

Rolshoven returned to Detroit in 1885, but the deficient public collections and general lack of art knowledge made him long for Italy.  By 1887 he was back in Florence, but quickly moved to Paris, where he studied at the Académie Julian alongside E. Irving Couse, a fellow Michigan native.  Rolshoven’s classical style was well received at the annual Salons, and he also participated in the Exposition Universelle of 1889, where he was awarded a coveted silver medal.  Rolshoven remained in France until 1895, when he was invited to teach in London. He continued summering in Italy, however, and settled permanently in Florence in 1902.  In 1905 he purchased and restored an eleventh century castle, known now as Castello del Diavolo. 

Rolshoven was forced to leave Italy in 1915, after the beginning of World War I.  In early 1916 he decided to visit Couse, his old friend from Paris, in Taos, New Mexico.  Rolshoven remained in Taos for the next four to five years, and was elected an associate member of the Taos Society of Artists in 1917, and an active member the following year.  Rolshoven was fascinated with the Taos Indians, and deeply admired the way in which they coexisted peacefully with their natural surroundings.  During his residence in Taos, Rolshoven was a frequent participant in the Society’s annual exhibitions, and one of the more successful in terms of sales.  Although his time in Taos was productive (it was in Taos that Rolshoven painted The Land of the Sip-o-phe, which, at 12 x 17 feet remains one of his most ambitious paintings ever) Rolshoven returned to Italy in 1919, and in  1924 his status in the Taos Society was returned to that of associate.