While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Dorothy Steinbomer Kendall

GENTILZ, JEAN LOUIS THÉODORE (1819–1906). Théodore Gentilz, painter, son of Pierre Louis Gentilz, Parisian manufacturer of custom-built carriages, was born in Paris in 1819. He was trained as draftsman, painter, and engineer at the Imperial School of Mathematics and Drawing, student of the painter Ramon Quesada Monvoisin and of "my master, [Eugène Emmanuel] Viollet-le-Duc." Gentilz was engaged in 1844 by the French entrepreneur Henri Castro to serve as surveyor, artist, and promotion agent for Castro's projected colony in Texas.

With John James, Charles DeMontel, and others, he laid out the village of Castroville and its satellites-Quihi, Vandenburg, New Fountain, and D'Hanis-known collectively as the Castro colony. During the ensuing years, he carried his painting gear and surveying instruments over far-flung trails from the western reaches of El Paso del Norte to the Gulf Coast and deep into Mexico.

In 1849, returning from one of his journeys to France on behalf of Castro, Gentilz brought back a French bride, Marie Fargeix-an accomplished musician-and his young sister Henriette. They settled in San Antonio, where, in 1852, Henriette married Gentilz's close friend Auguste Frétellière (author of "Reminiscences of a Castro Colonist, 1843–44"). Both families were active participants in the life of their Catholic parish, and Gentilz was a founding member of the French Mutual Relief Society, a fraternal and insurance organization.

Despite his friendships and intellectual life within the closed French circle, Gentilz focused his artistic vision on the indigenous cultures of the Southwest, whose long and rich history was yet to be recognized. Indians, Mexican ranchers and villagers, street scenes on both sides of the border, and Spanish missions all captured his attention. Typical of his paintings are the Camp of the Lipans, Comanche Chief, Sobre la Huella, Ranchero, Tamalero, Corrida de la Sandía, San Antonio, Fandango, San José de Aguayo, El Convite para el Baile, and Horse Racing at San Pedro Springs. In addition to his painting and surveying, for many years Gentilz taught painting at St. Mary's College and in his home (where Marie taught music). Two of his ablest students were Marie and Frétellière's daughter Louise, each of whom produced a small body of graceful paintings and drawings. At his death in San Antonio on January 4, 1906, he was survived only by his sister and her children.

Dedicated to history as well as to art, Gentilz tempered his somewhat rigid painterly style with considerable drafting skill to produce a valuable record of events, characters, customs, architecture, and landscapes of his place and time. As a historian he also attempted to recreate contemporary events to which he was not actually a witness, as in his Battle of the Alamo, Death of Dickinson, and Shooting of the 17 Decimated Texians at El Salado, Mexico. That which he deemed important to his period has proved important to posterity. Today his works, most of them in permanent collections (in the San Antonio Museum of Art and the Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library at the Alamo, for instance), are consulted by scholars and avidly sought by collectors.

Auguste Frétellière Reminiscences, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Gentilz/Frétellière Collection, Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library, San Antonio. Dorothy Steinbomer Kendall and Carmen Perry, Gentilz, Artist of the Old Southwest (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1974). Pauline A. Pinckney, Painting in Texas: The Nineteenth Century (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1967).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Dorothy Steinbomer Kendall, "GENTILZ, JEAN LOUIS THEODORE," accessed August 11, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fge01.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...