Photo-engraver, painter, and printmaker Paul Herman Rohland lived most of his career near Woodstock, New York, a vital art colony one hundred miles north of Manhattan. It attracted many painters, especially landscapists, where Birge Harrison was an early instructor and Alfred Hutty a seasonal resident. Under the auspices of the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration, Rohland undertook several post office mural commissions, two of which were in the South. His wife, Caroline Speare Rohland, also painted a few WPA murals.

Rohland was a native of Richmond, Virginia, and in his mid-teens he began work as a photo-engraver at the Christopher Engraving Company. During the evening he studied illustration and lithography at the Virginia Mechanics Institute (now Richmond Adult Technical Center). With his family he moved in 1900 to Philadelphia and worked for Beck Engraving Company doing etchings. From 1902 to 1906 he was an evening student of Robert Henri’s at the New York School of Art and the Art Students League. With funding from his aunt, he continued his studies in France. Upon his return he spent a summer in Woodstock where Harrison was teaching landscape painting for the League, later taking up residence nearby. 

Three paintings by Rohland—two still lifes and one of waterfalls—were part of the notorious Armory Show of 1913 which introduced European modernism to American audiences. Along with Anne Goldthwaite and Edmund Ashe, Rohland had not been invited to participate, but, like them, was chosen by the domestic committee, founded in response “to the great demand by the uninvited, a committee was formed to select from submitted work.” After the New York venue, one of his still lifes continued on to Chicago and was purchased for $175. 

In 1915 Rohland embarked for France, and made several subsequent trips abroad in the 1920s. In 1920, after a tour of Woodstock, noted collector Albert C. Barnes, the founder of the Barnes Foundation museum, purchased five monotypes by Rohland. Barnes later wrote to the artist, commending the work, saying how it “successfully competed in cheerfulness and charm with a bright, crisp day.”

Rohland was an active member of the Woodstock art community, even though he lived on the outskirts of the town, in Hurley, known for the Maverick concerts and festival. It is not surprising that he specialized in landscapes; many feature some of the flowers he grew on his property, as did his still lifes. Along with many other local artists, Rohland exhibited a painting in the Whitney Museum’s first biennial in 1932. During that decade paintings by Rohland were regularly exhibited at the Woodstock Art Association along with works by other members, including Frank London and Lucille Blanch

In his WPA/FAP murals Rohland was unusual as he elected to paint landscapes whereas most murals were figurative and included narratives pertinent to their locales. In 1938 he completed a commissioned work for the Decatur, Georgia, post office entitled Dogwoods and Azaleas. It is pure landscape, with the foreground consumed by a screen of flowering bushes. The following year, he painted a bayou scene for the Ville Platte, Louisiana, post office which shows plants across the foreground intermingled with ibises and herons. A large oak on the right is shrouded with Spanish moss, and a body of water occupies the middle ground. 

Throughout his career, Rohland traveled extensively, not only abroad, but also to Puerto Rico, South Carolina, and Louisiana. Beginning in the early 1940s, Rohland spent the last years of his life in the West as a result of severe asthma: first in Santa Fe, New Mexico, then in Sierra Madre near Los Angeles, California, where he died in 1949. Consistently representational in his oil paintings and watercolors, Rohland’s technique became broader as time passed. A review from the last show before his death claimed, “Paul Rohland roamed far and wide for his subjects and his facile brush caught the life amidst the palms of Puerto Rico, on quaint old New Orleans streets, and the more spacious scenes of New Mexico… Rohland’s distinctive [palette] of soft, sunny colors was particularly reflected in his many and exquisite still lifes. ‘The Window, Beaufort’ [Amaryllis] is a particularly luminous example.”