Past Treasure of the Month – November 2006
One of Galveston’s Forgotten Artists
The work was donated to the Library by the artist’s son, August O. Rollfing, in 1982.
The Rosenberg Library exhibited an oil painting by Galveston artist August Rollfing (1859 – 1930) for its Treasure of the Month. The Galveston seascape was painted in 1922 at the request of the artist’s son. Rollfing’s son, August Rollfing, Jr., was working as a cotton broker in Dallas at the time. He wrote to his father and asked him to paint a picture of the Galveston water for which he was homesick.
Though not as well known as Julius Stockfleth or Boyer Gonzales, Rollfing’s talent as a painter was recognized in his day. Rollfing received commissions to paint scenic murals at the Grand Opera House and at the Tremont Hotel, and he also gilded the statuary in St. Patrick Catholic Church and in St. Mary’s Infirmary. Other projects included decorating floats for Mardi Gras and painting stage scenery for local theaters. Rollfing’s workshop was located on 24th Street between Mechanic and Market.
August Rollfing was born in Germany in 1859. He studied art and traveled extensively through Europe before immigrating to Galveston in the 1880s. There, he married Louisa Christina Hansen, and the couple had four children (only three of whom lived to adulthood). The Rollfing family’s first home was located on Mechanic and 7th Street, just a few blocks from Julius Stockfleth, a friend and fellow artist who had also immigrated to Galveston from Germany. Later, the Rollfings moved near the beach at 18th and Avenue P, which is where they lived at the time of the 1900 Storm. The family’s home and its contents — including many of Rollfing’s paintings — were completely destroyed.
In 1932, Louisa Rollfing — then age 72 — wrote an autobiography which included her account of the family’s experience during the 1900 Storm in Galveston. These recollections are included in both Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson and Through a Night of Terrors, co-edited by Casey Greene and Shelley Kelly. Now part of the Galveston and Texas History Center collection, Louisa Rollfing’s memoirs are available to researchers at the Rosenberg Library.