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Octavio Medellin Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: ASE
Date: Aug 1993

Biographical History

Octavio Medellin (1907-1999) was a Mexican-American artist, sculptor, ceramist and teacher known for his work inspired by Mayan and Toltec influences.

Medellin was born in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. He came to the United States in 1920, settling in San Antonio, Texas, and studied at the San Antonio School of Art, the Chicago Art Institute, and the Guggenheim Museum. In 1929 he embarked on a lengthy journey around Mexico, visiting the villages and absorbing native art and craft techniques. He returned to the United States in 1931 and shortly thereafter he and several other San Antonio artists opened La Villita Art Gallery (1934).

Over the next thirty years, Medellin practiced and taught at a succession of prestigious Texas venues, including three years at the Witte Museum of Art and at La Villita, five years as sculptor-in-residence at North Texas State College, four years teaching art students from Southern Methodist University, and 21 years teaching sculpture and ceramics at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts.

In 1964 Medellin moved to a studio at Mendocino Art Center in Mendocino, California and in 1966 he opened the Medellin School of Sculpture, teaching all levels of students in numerous different media. He semi-retired in 1979.

According to The Handbook of Texas Online, "Medellin developed a powerful style inspired in part by the art of the Maya and Toltec Indians, and exerted considerable influence over young artists." ["The Dallas Nine," The Handbook of Texas Online, accessed here]

Scope and Contents of the Collection

Spanning 1936 to 1964, the Octavio Medellin Papers comprises biographical material, correspondence, artwork, writings, and memorabilia of the Mexican-American artist. Illuminating Medellin's Latino heritage as well as his artistic expertise in the portrayal of religious subjects, the collection documents both the career and, to a lesser extent, the personal life of the sculptor, mosaicist, and educator.

Correspondence (1941-1963) consists of incoming and outgoing personal and business letters, a number of which are in Spanish. The Correspondence, mostly relating to specifications for various art commissions, includes that of architects and architectural firms (Kenneth Franzheim, Grayson Gill, Max M. Sandfield, Eugene Wukasch); artists (Ben P. Bailey, Julio de Diego, Frank Dolejska, Xavier Gonzalez, Gyorgy Kepes, Lucy Madison Maverick, Carlos Merida, Cora Elder Stafford, Salvador Toscano, Charles Umlauf); clients (Diocese of Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Texas, Mr. and Mrs. Donald Lewis, Father R. O'Laughlin for St. Henry's Church of Freeport, Texas, Frank Paxton, John L. Paxton, St. Andrew's Episcopal Church of Grand Prairie, Texas, Sisters of Saint Mary of Namur in Fort Worth, M. H. Stekoll, Waldo Stewart, Temple Emanu-El of Dallas); museum curator Charles Muskavitch; and orchestra conductor Vladimir Golschmann. A selected index to the correspondence follows the box list.

Artwork encompasses material concerning commissions and contracts (1951-1960), reproductions (1942-1957), and 14 preliminary sketches of the stations of the cross for a Dallas church. A small number of typescript autobiographical essays by Medellin pertaining to artwork constitutes Writings.

Memorabilia comprises an itinerary of a trip to Mexico and Central America, material from the Dallas-Fort Worth Men of Art Guild, one photograph of Medellin, printed material, a small amount of teaching-related material, and typescript reviews by Jerry Harwell, Carlos Merida, Gene Mitchell, and Salvador Toscano. Printed material contains published articles and reviews about Medellin (1941-1958), newspaper clippings (1936-1962), two exhibition catalogs (1950, 1964), and one exhibition invitation (1942).

Arrangement of the Collection

Correspondence is arranged chronologically. Other material is arranged alphabetically by type and/or author.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

The Bywaters Special Collection at Southern Methodist University (SMU) has a large collection of Medellin material which they have digitized and made available online in Octavio Medellin: Works of Art and Artistic Processes.

Subject Headings


Bailey, Ben P.
Gonzalez, Xavier.
Kepes, Gyorgy, 1906-2001.
Medellin, Octavio, 1907 or 8-1999.
Mérida, Carlos, 1891-
Stafford, Cora Elder.
Toscano, Salvador, 1912-1949.
Umlauf, Charles, 1911-1994.


Art, American.
Church decoration and ornament, Texas.
Church decoration and ornament, United States.
Mexican Americans.
Mosaicists -- United States.
Mosaics -- United States -- 20th century.
Sculptors -- United States.
Sculpture, American -- 20th century.
Sculpture, American.

Genres and Forms

Clippings (information artifacts)
Exhibition catalogs.
Reviews (document genre)



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Octavio Medellin Papers
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Octavio Medellin, 1964.

Table of Contents

Biographical material





Selected index to correspondence


Selected index to correspondence