A professional lawyer, skilled artist, and accidental historian, Rolla Sims Taylor (1872-1970) was a man of many talents, most notably his ability to capture the architectural life of Texas and Mexico in the 20th century.
Born in Galveston and raised in San Antonio, Taylor began his prolific career at the young age of fourteen when he entered and won the first art competition ever held in Alamo City. Taylor then continued to study in San Antonio with Robert Jenkins Onderdonk and Jose Arpa, where he gained the early influence behind his bluebonnet landscapes.
While continuing to paint recreationally, Taylor later spent his professional life as a court room reporter until he became a lawyer around the age of sixty. Throughout this time, he travelled around Texas and Mexico and became enchanted with the color and life in the cities and villages he visited. His admiration of the beauty within the Hill Country, Big Bend, Saltillo, Taxco, Cuernavaca, and many other places was distilled into several impressionist oil paintings of streets and alleyways, churches, farm houses, old buildings, shacks, windmills, and rural landscapes. Taylor also painted a few coastal scenes in Galveston, paintings that later became desired for their rarity.
These scenic architectural paintings were glazed with the light of the late evening, with soft yellow and orange hues filling the sky and reflecting off of buildings. Taylor’s paintings depicted a quaint, calm portrait of both the city and rural landscapes in Texas and Mexico that perfectly captured the tranquil evening lull; and, while many of these paintings sold, Taylor claimed that he did not “paint to sell… but out of love of art and the beauty around him.”
The scenes of Texas and Mexico that Taylor captured later became of historical importance after many of the buildings he painted were torn down. He created a historical record through his art, such as his depiction of the Spanish landmark, the La Quinta, which was torn down in 1922, but immortalized in Taylor’s painting from four years earlier. This important contribution earned Taylor honors from the Texas State Historical and Landmark Association.
Taylor continued to paint throughout his lifetime and helped found several art clubs, including the forerunner of the San Antonio Art League, the Van Dyke Club. His ability to paint the beauty and infrastructure of an older Texan and Mexican landscape established his work with nostalgic importance throughout Texas and Mexico.