Octavio Medellin: Works of Art and Artistic Processes, Bywaters Special Collections

About the Collection


'Gold Bird', Columbian, investment showing casted goldThis digital collection consists mainly of the Medellin Slide Collection, held by SMU's Bywaters Special Collections at the Hamon Arts Library, consists of approximately 4500 35-mm slides taken by Octavio Medellin (1907 – 1999) from the 1950s through the 1970s. The images are separated into categories documenting Medellin’s art career.  Included are slides of Medellin’s art work in progress and processes he used in creating his sculpture primarily in stone, copper, and brass. Additional slides contain images of Medellin’s art installations in the Dallas area, including his mosaic work at Saint Bernard of Clairvaux Catholic Church and glass ceiling lights in the Mercantile Bank Building. Other images are of his students and their work at the Medellin Art School, Medellin’s molten glass experiments, and his travels to Mexico where he studied both modern and historical architecture and relief carvings at ancient sites including Chichén Itzá, Palenque, and Tula. 

Several related items are also available in the digital collection, including Maya-Toltec Temples and Carvings, 1938, which contain 181 photographs of Medellin’s travels in 1938 in Mexico, his family, the ruins at Chichén Itzá, people associated with the ancient Mayan sites, and his art and travel friends David and Kayla Slivka, and Medellin’s portfolio of 11 block prints titled Xtol: Dance of the Ancient Mayan People; Murals from the Temple of the Tigers at Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico, which was influenced by his 1938 trip and published by the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts in 1947.

Bywaters' digital collections are part of CUL Digital Collections, which contain thousands of digitized photographs, manuscripts, imprints, and works of art held by SMU's Central University Libraries special collections.   

Christ head, bronze

The Life and Work of Octavio Medellin

Octavio Medellin was born in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, in 1907 at a time when his country stood on the brink of a violent revolution.  His family, of Otomi Indian heritage, moved to San Antonio, Texas in 1920 where the young Medellin began his art studies at the San Antonio Art Institute with José Arpa and Xavier Gonzales, Spanish artists who had relocated to San Antonio and established flourishing art careers. In 1928 Medellin left San Antonio and moved to Chicago where he studied at the Chicago Art Institute. A year later he returned to Mexico to begin a three-year study of his native country’s art, customs, and history – a period that proved to be a major influence in the young artist’s artistic evolution.  He traveled throughout the Gulf Coast, including the Yucatan, and studied the local crafts produced in small villages and the ancient ruins and sculpture of the Mayan and Toltec Indians. Mexico’s unique artistic culture profoundly influenced Medellin’s art and that of the many students he taught over the next four decades

In 1931, Medellin moved back to San Antonio and taught sculpture at the Witte Museum and a few years later, with several other local artists, opened La Villita Art Gallery. There he met Lucy Maverick, herself a young artist whose family was influential in the historic preservation of San Antonio during the late 19th/early 20th century. In 1938, interested in encouraging Medellin’s art development, Maverick sponsored the artist’s journey to Mexico for a six-month study of the ruins at Chichén Itzá and Uzmal. This trip is documented in the Maya-Toltec Temples and Carvings, 1938 photograph album. Medellin’s sketches of the sites were later worked into the portfolio of 11 block prints, Xtol: Dance of the Ancient Mayan People; Murals from the Temple of the Tigers at Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico, published by the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts in 1947. Two of the original sketches are located in the Octavio Medellin Collection at SMU.

Artist's Reflections

“I believe that sincere art must be elemental and close to the earth – a symbol of the people. The trend of my art is toward the common people and everyday life, the kind of people and environment I myself come from.  It is entirely away from politics and sophisticated ideas.”
Octavio Medellin, Americans 1942, 18 Artists from 9 States, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1942, p. 102

Medellin continued to teach while finding time to do his own work.  He taught at North Texas State Teachers College [now the University of North Texas], Southern Methodist University, and the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts School. Throughout his career, Medellin explored other media including ceramics, mosaics, glass, lost-wax process in bronze casting – techniques he also taught to his students. In 1966 he opened the Medellin School of Sculpture in Dallas and continued to teach until semi-retirement in 1979 when he and his wife, Consuelo, moved to Bandera, Texas. Medellin’s work has been represented in exhibitions and museums through the years including the Dallas Museum of [Fine] Arts, the Witte Museum in San Antonio, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 1996, the Dallas Visual Arts Center, now the Dallas Contemporary, honored Medellin, along with Dallas artist Barney Delabano and art collector Raymond Nasher, with the prestigious Legends Award. 

Monterrey, Mexico. Catholic church, ca. 1966

Beginning in 1989, Medellin and his family began to donate his massive archival, art, and slide collection to Southern Methodist University. Now housed in Bywaters Special Collections, located in the Jake and Nancy Hamon Arts Library, the Octavio Medellin Collection consists of catalogues, clippings files, correspondence, fused glass experiments, photographs, slides, and works of art of paper that document his art career and his prominent role in the development of Texas art. 

Holdings and Highlights

The digital collection mirrors the physical collection. It is divided into Slide Boxes, which contain multiple groups. Below are links to Slide Boxes that have been digitized.

''Sitted Figure'', detail, hammered lead. 1979

Below are links to images relating to specific pieces of art work, buildings, other art collections, people and events, and personal slides.

Photograph Albums

Maya-Toltec Temples and Carvings, 1938

Works of Art

Akab-Dzib; Altar; Bald Eagle; Ball Court; Bishop Lynch High School; Bottom of the Sea; Calvary Hill Cemetery; Candlesticks and Procession Cross, Bishop Mason Retreat Center; Ceramic Figures, Lamps and Mosaics; Christ the King; Colored Glass Experiments; Covered Dish; Crucifix, St. Andrew Catholic Church; Dallas Studio; Ecce-Homo; Gold Bird; Hanging Pix; Head of Christ; History of Mexico; Horse; Horse Head; Landing Eagle; Lucy Maverick Collection; Mad Moses; Mercantile Bank Glass Ceiling Lights; Mazantecutli, Lord of the Deer; Mercantile Bank; Peruvian Wall Fountain; Prismatic Forms; Reflections in Glass; River of Fire; Salt and Pepper Shakers; Sitted Figure; Stekoll Petroleum Garden Figure; Saint Bernard of Clairvaux Catholic Church; Saint Francis Garden Piece; San Luis Potosi Chapel; Stone Figures; St. Henry's Church; St. Paul the Apostle; Student Center; Study for a Christ; Temple Emanuel; Temple of the Eagle; Temple of the Jaguar; Temple of the Three Lintels; Temple of the Nuns; Temple of the Tablets; Temple of the Warriors; The Father; The Holy Ghost; The Holy Spirit; The Resurrection; The Son; The Spirit of the Revolution; Turnpike Mural; Trinity Lutheran Church; Wood and Stained Glass, Gainsville, TX; Unitarian Church; Uplifting Force; Wood Figures


Amon Carter Museum; Cadet Chapel; Dallas Museum of Art; Meadows Museum; New City Hall

Other Art Collections

Bromberg Art Collection, Charles Williams Sculpture; Julio Gonzalez Sculpture; Stanley Marcus Art Collection

People and Events

Glassmakers, Mexico; Forms of Nature; Hemisfair; Medellin School of Sculpture; Mendocino Art Center Seminar; Toledo Museum of Art Glass Seminar; Vermont Marble Company Sculpture Seminar

Personal and Professional Travel

Bandera home, Daingerfield hom; Medellin Studio; Travels to Mexico; Travels to Guatemala

Related Collections

Octavio Medellin: Works of Art and Artistic Processes is one of a growing number of unique digital collections related to Texas art and history that are available through SMU's CUL Digital Collections.

Untitled linocut, 1975, by Octavio Medellin

CUL Digital Collections contain thousands of digitized photographs, manuscripts, imprints, and works of art held by SMU's Central University Libraries special collections.

Related  SMU collections include

Digital Collections Guidelines and Procedures

Items in Central University Library Digital Collections are digitized following the SMU Central University Libraries Digitization Guidelines and Procedures. Digital collections are created under the guidelines of the SMU CONTENTdm Guide: Framework for Building a Collection, or through specialized metadata profiles tailored for the collection.


Copyright usage terms vary throughout the collection. Each item contains information about usage terms. If SMU does not have the right to publish the item on the Internet, only the item's metadata will be available and the digitized object will be available on a restricted access basis. Such items may only be viewed on campus. When items are available for use, please cite Bywaters Special Collections, Southern Methodist University when using this file. For more information contact bywatersspecialcollections@smu.edu.

Contact Info

For more information about the collection, please contact bywatersspecialcollections@smu.edu.