Raised as a Quaker, Olive Rush studied at Earlham College, the art school associated with the Corcoran Gallery of Art and at the Art Students League before becoming an illustrator in New York in 1895. She was well known for her portraits and paintings of children and women, many of which were featured in magazines such as Woman's Home Companion and St. Nicholas. In 1904 she moved to Wilmington, Delaware, to study with Howard Pyle, and she stayed until 1910. She spent the next year in Europe studying British and French painters, and finished her art education at the Boston Museum School in 1912. In 1913 Rush returned to Europe with her friend, the watercolorist Alice Schille, visiting Belgium and France.
In 1914 Rush, with her father, visited New Mexico and Arizona, and she had a one-person exhibition at the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe. She made several visits to New Mexico over the next couple of years and moved permanently to Santa Fe in 1920. Despite the relative isolation of Santa Fe, Rush continued to contributed to national and international shows over the next thirty years, which activity culminated in a retrospective at the Museum of New Mexico Art Gallery in 1957.
Her former studio on Canyon Road in Santa Fe is now the home to the Santa Fe Quaker Meeting, as well as having guest house facilities available on the site.
Rush considered her major influences to be early Chinese art, Japanese art, and El Greco. She painted murals for several public buildings in Santa Fe including the Public Library, the Post Office and La Fonda hotel on the plaza, as well as elsewhere in New Mexico. She taught mural painting to students at the Santa Fe Indian School, which is now the Institute of American Indian Arts.
- Rush, Olive (1957). Olive Rush Paintings. Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Art Gallery.
- Cuba, Stanley L. (1992) Olive Rush: A Hoosier Artist in New Mexico, Minnetrista Cultural Foundation, Muncie, Indiana. ISBN 0-9623291-4-2
- New York Sun, March 17, 1933, p. 14.
- “Women Artists of Santa Fe” by Michael R. Grauer
- Newton, Judith Vale and Carol Ann Weiss. (2004) Skirting the Issue: Stories of Indiana's Historical Women Artists, Indiana Historical Society Press, Indianapolis. ISBN 0-87195-177-0
- Media related to Olive Rush at Wikimedia Commons
- Olive Rush Papers Online at the Smithsonian Archives of American Art
- Santa Fe Friends (Quaker) Meeting at the Former Olive Rush Studio
- Santa Fe Hillside at New Mexico Museum of Art