Born in Fredericksburg, Iowa, Bolton moved with his family to Stuttgart, Arkansas, then in 1896 to Honey Grove, Texas. Bolton studied under Frank Reaugh and worked as a piano tuner in Dallas. Bolton attended the School of Fine Arts, Washington University, St. Louis (1909-10), followed by a period in Europe (1910-13) when he studied in Paris under William Rueloup and Paul Abram and in the Netherlands under William Orowelt. Bolton returned to Dallas in 1914 where he was employed by the Dallas Piano Works. He painted in pastels and oils and preferred western subjects. In 1916 he worked in California, then returned to Dallas. In the summers of 1916 and 1917, he accompanied Frank Reaugh on his sketching caravans to West Texas. Bolton died in Rusk and was buried in Dallas.