SAN ANTONIO, TX.- The San Antonio Museum of Art
announced today the expansion of its Texas art holdings as the result of a major gift from local collector Larry Sheerin. The gift by Mr. Larry Sheerin and his family includes more than 80 works of art by the French-born, Texas-based painter Theodore Louis Gentilz. This gift enhances the study and display of early Texas art at the Museum.
Our vision has long been to highlight the dynamic connections between local and regional artists and those from across the country and abroad, emphasizing the importance of San Antonio to global artistic dialogues, said Katherine Luber, the Kelso Director of the San Antonio Museum of Art. We are so fortunate to be the beneficiaries of this important collection. San Antonio, in particular, has a rich and diverse artistic and cultural history, and we are delighted to share it with our audiences.
The Sheerin family has long been an ardent supporter of the Museum. Mr. and Mrs. Sheerins daughter, Kate Sheerin, a former museum curator and independent art historian, currently serves on the Board and was instrumental in guiding the collection to the Museum. These gifts of art arrive as the Museum has made a significant commitment to the study, preservation, and presentation of American art. A landmark gift from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation supports the position of Chief Curator/Curator of American Art, and inspired another patron, Mrs. Marie Halff, to endow that position in honor of her late husband.
Highlights from Mr. Sheerins Gift:
Theodore Gentilz (1819-1906) was born in Paris and trained as a painter, draftsman, and engineer. In 1844, the French entrepreneur Henry Castro hired Gentilz as a surveyor and painter for his project colony in Texas. Gentilzs explorations of trails from El Paso to the Gulf Coast and deep into Mexico inspired his painting throughout his life. His works captured the many cultures of the Southwest, providing a window into little-known traditions and experiences. Gentilz is credited with founding the first fine art school in Texas, at St. Marys University, where he taught painting and the history of art. Among the 83 works gifted to the Museum are:
● Stick Stock (Surveyors in Texas before Annexation to the U.S.), last quarter of 19th Century, oil on canvas, 14x17. This painting shows early settlers in and around San Antonio. Gentilz was trained as a surveyor, so may have had a particular interest in capturing this moment.
● Lavanderas (Wash Day on San Pedro Creek), ca. 1860, oil on canvas, 16x19½. Gentilz was a close observer of daily life in and around San Antonio. This painting shows the varied residents of San Antonio in the latter part of the 19th-century, including Native Americans, Mexicans, and Germans, as well as the different socio-economic strata of the residents, from caballeros to washer women.
● View of Monclova, last quarter of 19th Century, oil on canvas, 12x9. A close observer of the Spanish colonial architecture of South Texas, Gentilz painted the missions and churches he experienced many times. He was the first chronicler of the Texas War of Independence against the Mexicans. Much of what we know about the original appearance of the missions, first built in the 18th-century comes to us from his paintings.
Larry Sheerin is a San Antonio native and has a deep commitment to preserving the culture of south Texas. A champion polo player, farmer, and investor, Mr. Sheerin began collecting rare guns in the late 1940s. He amassed a wide collection of historic Colt firearms that became the nucleus of the collection at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming, on whose board he served for over 50 years. Mr. Sheerin was introduced to Gentilzs work during a visit to a gun seller on N. St. Marys Street in San Antonio. He learned that the seller was a descendant of Gentilz, and subsequently purchased all of the works he saw that day. Mr. Sheerin continued to seek out and collect the artists work as it became available. Mr. Sheerins collecting has kept the importance of Gentilzs work alive. In addition to his deep holdings of Gentilzs work, Mr. Sheerin has built an extraordinary collection of works by the Onderdonk family, which he and his family have generously lent to multiple exhibition projects over the years. Mr. Sheerin is joined in the gift of the Gentilz collection by his wife Betty Lou, son Laurence, and daughter Kate.