Theodore Gentilz, Texas Artist
Those who view libraries as having only “old books” and archives as having only “old papers” may be surprised to find that the DRT Library’s collections include, among other materials, more than 1,000 pieces of graphic and decorative art, paintings, prints, and posters. Notably, the library has the largest publicly accessibly collection of artwork by nineteenth-century Texas artist Theodore Gentilz.
Louis Theodore Jean Gentilz (May 2, 1819 – January 4, 1906) was born in Paris and graduated from the l’Ecole royale gratuite de dessin, de mathematiques et de sculpture d’ornements. He immigrated to Texas in 1844 with the second group of Henri Castro’s colonists and was one of the founders of Castroville. Gentilz served Castro as secretary and surveyor and led colonizers to settle new towns in Castro’s land grant. Gentilz moved to San Antonio probably sometime in the late 1840s. In 1849, the year his father died, Gentilz returned to Paris and married Marie Fargeix, bringing her and his younger sister, Henriette Adelaide, back to Texas. Three years later, Henriette married Gentilz’s friend Auguste Fretelliere. Beginning in the 1860s and continuing until 1894, Gentilz taught art at St. Mary’s College in San Antonio. He also gave art lessons in his home on North Flores Street near Salinas Street and prepared extensive instructional guides for teaching.
Gentilz produced a variety of paintings and drawings that reflected his Texas surroundings, including compositions depicting the customs of the Mexican population, for which he is most remembered today, and botanical studies of the native wildflowers of South Texas.
The extensive Gentilz-Fretelliere collection at the DRT Library contains family papers dating from 1793 to 1962. The materials have been arranged into seven series (groups of similar records):
- The Correspondence series includes letters, postcards, greeting cards, telegrams, and addressed envelopes.
- The Records series includes property, business, financial, personal, and family records.
- The Writings series contains manuscripts and notes.
- The Printed materials series includes ephemera, leaflets, pamphlets, catalogs, lists and charts, clippings, books, serials, prints, music, and maps.
- The Photographs series primarily contains images of people, but also includes pictures of animals; street scenes, city views, and river scenes; buildings; and plants and flowers.
- The Artifacts series contains tools and equipment; personal objects; clothing and textiles; decorative arts; models, molds, and sculpture; furniture; and packages.
- The Original art series includes preliminary sketches, finished compositions, design drawings, perspective projections, and sketches. Numbering more than 600, these pieces depict a variety of subjects such as figures, portraits, animals, landscapes, nature, and flora. This series contains pieces signed by Theodore and Marie Gentilz, their niece Louise Fretelliere, and their nephew Henry Fretelliere; art attributed to each and to niece Mathilde Fretelliere; and a large number of items, particularly drawings, the attribution of which requires further study.
For more information about this collection, please contact or visit the library.