Lotan Lotan

 Little is known about Lotan Lotan prior to 1952 when he arrived in Arizona in a 1931 Stutz DV 32 accompanied by his girlfriend Ruth and their pet Bulldog, Sir Oliver Cedric.  Ruth, who would later became his wife, was also an artist.  In a letter that same year to California artist Claude Buck, Lotan claimed to be "living in the middle of the desert painting like never before."   He went on to state in the letter the he had recently changed his name to Lotan Lotan because it was part of "loosing(sic) the past and becoming an entirely new person . . .doing my best to create a new painting as well as a new personality."

 

Lotan evidentially had no problem stretching the truth to help create his new persona. During his Arizona years he typically signed his paintings "Lotan Lotan, PHD, MD" even though he was neither a PHD or a Medical Doctor. Throughout his life he claimed to have received degrees in medicine and a PHD in art from the University of Berlin in 1926. In a 1966 interview with The Carefree Enterprise he recounted how he used to operate a medical clinic and a portrait studio side by side in London. "At the same time I was treating the social outcasts of the Soho district, I was also receiving portrait commissions from the royalty and political nobility of Europe and America." He also stated in the interview that he painted commissioned portraits of King George V of England, President Warren Harding, Mrs. Calvin Coolidge, and General John Pershing. None of this has ever been substantiated and it is in all likelihood false. He also boasted at various times to have studied at the Julian Academy in Paris, the Kaiser Frederick Museum in Berlin, and the National Academy of Design in New York. No evidence has ever been found to validate any of these claims either.

In spite of Lotan's elaborate fabrications about his past certain biographical aspects are known for sure.  He was born Lotan S. Welshans on June 19, 1905 in Danville, Indiana.  Lotan noted on numerous occasions that he was "born on a farm in Indiana."  This seems to be one case where he told the truth. Records list his mother as Anna Laurel Worthington-Jenkins and his father as "Unknown".  He attended Provisio Township High School in Illinois where he graduated in 1924.  After high school he attended the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts(CAFA) from July 1924 to June 1926.  Although he never graduated records show he did complete almost 2500 hours of course work.  It's interesting to note that given Lotan's history of hyping and fabricating his past accomplishments he was never known to mention the fact that he attended the CAFA, a fine school in its own right.

In the late 1920's he most likely worked as a commercial artist for an advertising firm with ties to the automobile industry.  Illustrated advertisements for Rolls-Royce and Mercedes-Benz from the late 20's signed "Lotan Welshans" are known to exist. The Stutz DV32 which carried Lotan and Ruth to their new home in 1952 was allegedly compensation for "money owed" for Stutz parts manuals Lotan had drawn prior to the company's bankruptcy in 1935.    

1930 Census records show that Lotan was a resident of Cook County, Illinois where he still lived with his mother.  (His occupation was listed as "Mother's caretaker"). Several WPA era paintings signed Lotan Welshans are also known to exist. Although little is known about his life in the 1930's he was definitely painting.

In the same letter to Claude Buck where he told of  his efforts to recreate himself, he mentioned serving in the Naval Ordinance Department during World War II as well as "the trying years trying to run an art school in Chicago" following the war.  He then mentioned the dissolution of his marriage and finally his move to Arizona.

Shortly after his arrival in Arizona, Lotan married Ruth.   For several years they lived in Scottsdale under the name Lotan and Ruth Ateliers.  Then in the late 1950's they moved to Cave Creek where they lived for nearly fifteen years. During this time the Lotans often bartered their art work in exchange for rent. For many of these years they lived next door to John Wade Hampton, one of the founders of the Cowboy Artists of America (CAA).  During this time Lotan worked out of a studio in the Elbow Bend area of Carefree which he called "L'Atelier".   Lotan painted several murals during this time, including an eight foot by forty foot mural for the Maricopa County Health Building.  He also was the cover artist for the 1960 Parada Del Sol program.

Lotan has been called the "Dali of the Desert" on numerous occasions. Although many of his paintings from the Arizona years are of traditional Western themes, Lotan described his style as “conceptualism”.  A typical painting might have included scenes such as the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian or the dance of Salome against the background of the Arizona desert.  One of his better known paintings shows two beautiful women sunbathing nude while drinking martini’s in front of the Superstition Mountains.  Describing his inspiration for the painting, Lotan stated that  “Everyone is always talking about finding a lost gold mine in a mountain that has no gold-bearing rock formation.”  Lotan found it just as reasonable to assume one could discover “two beautiful nude sun bathers discussing Plato, while having Martinis”.

 

According to Fran Elliott of the Arizona Historical Art Museum, Ruth was more of a classical-traditional painter who preferred to work in water color.  She did many known scenes of the West and Mexico.   After working her way through college at Indiana State by doing commercial work, she also received some formal training at the Chicago Art Institute.  Ruth was known to do several commissioned portraits including several portraits of various U.S. Army officers. Personal correspondence indicates that her first husband was a Colonel in the Army.   A series of paintings depicting WAC’s at work were exhibited at the Pentagon.  She also worked as a reporter and art director for the Arizonian, a Scottsdale newspaper.

In 1971 Ruth was suffering from a terminal illness.  The couple entered into a bizarre suicide pact which was to include the killing of their two Bulldogs.  Ruth followed through and Lotan killed the dogs but could not bring himself to complete the agreement. 

Shortly after the incident, Lotan moved to Prescott where he continued to paint and teach.  He was the cover artist for the Frontier Days program for several years in the early 80's.  He died at the Pioneers Home in Prescott in 1985. There was no contact with any relatives at the time of his death.

 

One of the Blue Coyote Gallery's primary objectives is to acquire biographical information about historically important Arizona artists. Background and biographical information about many of the deceased artists we represent is often very sketchy and limited at best. We are trying to acquire information before people who knew these artists personally are no longer around. 

 

If you knew either of the Lotans personally, or knew someone who did, we would be grateful if you could share any biographical information, stories, or anecdotes you may have. Information can be sent via email or postal mail. We would also be glad to arrange interviews either via telephone or in person. 

 

Please contact Gary Fillmore at gary@bluecoyotegallery.com

 

or 480-489-3413

 

Click on images for enlargement and more information.  If the image does not enlarge the painting is no longer available.

 

 
Lotan Lotan Desert Oddity
   
 
Lotan Lotan 3 Graces in the Desert
   
 
We are always interested in purchasing or accepting on consignment work by Lotan Lotan or Ruth Lotan.  Please contact us with any inquiries.
   
 

Lotan Lotan AKA Lotan Welshans Circa 1950

Lotan Welshans

Circa 1950

   
 
Lotan Lotan deser oddities
   
 
Lotan Lotan Hearts on Fire
   
 

Ruth Lotan Circa 1960

Ruth Lotan

Circa 1960

   
 
Lotan Lotan Tumacacori
   
 
Lotan Lotan Homestead
Lotan Lotan Desert Mating Dance
Lotan Lotan Circa 1980

Lotan Lotan

Circa 1980

 

 

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6141 E. Cave Creek Rd.               Cave Creek                    Arizona                   85331