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Garcia, Antonio E. (1901-1997) (The Michelangelo of the Southwest) (Godfather of South Texas Painting)

Antonio Encarnación Garcia was a south Texas artist, teacher and founding member of the Art League of
South Texas. Garcia painted frescos for several Catholic churches in south Texas and exhibited at the
Texas Centennial Exposition in 1936.

Born on December 27, 1901 in Monterrey, Mexico to Antonio and Dolores Garcia, Garcia’s father sent him
to live with relatives in San Diego, Texas early in his life to escape war in Mexico. After graduating high
school in San Diego, Texas, Garcia moved to Chicago to attend the prestigious Art Institute of Chicago.
During this time, the Mexican muralists, Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Jose Orozco travelled
and painted throughout the United States. Like many young artists, Garcia drew inspiration from the work
of the Mexican muralists. Following the Great Depression, Garcia moved back to south Texas with his high
school sweetheart and new bride, Herminia Gonzalez, with whom he raised five children, Dolores, Antonio,
Eduardo, Ana Maria, and Rosa. Moving from San Diego to Corpus Christi, Garcia made South Texas his
permanent residence.

Garcia began teaching private art classes in Corpus Christi and went on to teach at Del Mar College for over
twenty years. He regularly organized educational trips to Mexico to teach art techniques and history.
Known as a skilled portrait artist, clients such as The Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs sought out
Garcia to paint their president.

In 1936, one of Garcia’s portraits exhibited at the Texas Centennial Exhibition in Dallas, Texas. Garcia
often used family and friends as models for his art. Garcia’s wife, Herminia, was the model for, “Woman
Before a Mirror,” which exhibited as part of "The Latin American Presence in the United States, 1920-1970"
at the Bronx Museum and toured nationally.

As a practicing Catholic, and a member of the Knights of Columbus Council #2710, it was only fitting that
he paint the frescos at Sacred Heart Catholic Church and the Corpus Christi Minor Seminary (now John
Paul II High School) in Corpus Christi. Commissioned by the Works Projects Administration in 1946, Garcia
painted the “Mexican Annunciation,” a fresco for the Our Lady of Loreto chapel inside the Presidio La Bahia
in Goliad, Texas.

Several of his notable works include “The Cotton Pickers,’” (1939) which depicted migrant laborers, a
popular theme among muralists at the time, and “Juneteenth Review,” (1949) for which he received first
prize from the Southern States Art League. He also illustrated several books including, Nuestros Vecinos
by Elida Wills.

As a well-known artist in South Texas and a devoted supporter of education, Garcia was a founding
member of the South Texas Art League. It was for many of these reasons that the art education center at
Texas A&M Corpus Christi (previously South Texas Institute for the Arts) was named in his honor in 1998.
The Antonio E. Garcia Arts & Education Center hosts programs, art exhibits, and serves as a community
center, reflecting many of the things that Antonio Garcia valued.

Antonio E. Garcia passed away on November 3, 1997 in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

Written By : Esther Rivera
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Antonio Encarnacion Garcia Canales

Antonio Encarnacion Garcia Canales was the son of Jose Antonio Garcia Tovar and Maria Dolores Canales.
He married his high school sweetheart Herminia Gonzalez of San Diego, Texas.  They had five children:
Dolores, Antonio Jr., Eduardo, Ana Maria and Rosa. Antonio was the family historian, prankster, and a
renowned artist.  He passed away on November 03, 1997, and was laid to rest in the family plot in San
Diego, Texas, where his grandparents (Encarnacion Garcia Perez & Praxedis Tovar) are buried.

Antonio was born in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon in 1901 -- a turbulent time in Northern Mexico’s history.  His
mother had died shortly after he was born, and his father brought him to San Diego, Texas, along with his
sisters Maria Dolores and Hortencia, to be under the care of his paternal aunts, Cuca, Maclovia & Maria.  He
attended school in San Diego and upon graduation he earned his way to the Art Institute of Chicago where
he studied from 1927-1930 and won two Art Institute Awards.  He settled in Corpus Christi, Texas and
taught art for 25 years at Del Mar College.  He also conducted art workshops in Saltillo, Coahuila and San
Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato.  

As an accomplished artist, Antonio illustrated several books, painted portraits, and restored artwork.  He
was a well-known muralist. In 1933 he painted a mural (March on Washington) for the San Diego High
School.  The mural now is exhibited in the Duval County Museum.  In 1946 he completed the fresco The
Annunciation located in the Our Lady of Loreto Chapel, Presidio La Bahia, Goliad, Texas.  Later, he received
Commissions by the Catholic Diocese of Corpus Christi to paint several frescoes in Sacred Heart Church
(including a depiction of Our Lady of Guadalupe appearing to Saint Juan Diego).  Another Commission from
the Diocese was a fresco for the Corpus Christi Minor Seminary Chapel which depicts The Immaculate
Conception.  The fresco soars over forty-four feet from the sanctuary floor to the ceiling in the chapel.  
Antonio was called by some the “Michelangelo of the Southwest,” according to the Diocese of Corpus
Christi Website.

Rancho La Trinidad, Nuevo Leon, along the Rio Salado, had a special place in his heart and served as a
setting for his early paintings. He often used his cousins Trine, Praxedis, Hortencia, Esther, and Maria as
his models washing clothes along the banks of the Rio Salado.  His wife, Herminia, posed for several of his
paintings.  Her image in the piece titled Woman before a Mirror was featured in several exhibits including
the 1988 Bronx Museum exhibit entitled The Latin American Spirit: Art and Artists in the United States
1920-1970.

Antonio was known as a gentle prankster.  Once he fooled his cousins Rebeca Garcia and Clementina
Garcia Dryden. He was asked by an organization to write a short biography on his grandfather Encarnacion
(a successful businessman & a descendant of Julian & Ventura Flores who received Spanish land grants
entitled San Diego de Arriba and San Diego de Abajo).  Antonio wrote two biographies. The first biography
he wrote the true life story of Encarnacion. The second biography stated that his grandfather was the
town’s blacksmith.  Antonio purposefully let the cousins read the prank biography at a family get
together.  Needless to say they hit the roof. To make matter worse, he turned in that prank biography to
the organization by mistake.

Our family history has been passed by word of mouth from generation to generation, as it has with many
families.  I was fortunate that Tio Antonio entrusted me to continue that tradition.  His father Jose Antonio
and my grandfather Eudoxio were brothers.

On the occasion of our wedding, my husband Fidel and I were handed down a piece of history.  Tio Antonio
and Tia Herminia presented us with a silverware place setting that belonged to my great-grand parents,
Encarnacion and Praxedis Garcia. They wanted Encarnacion and Praxedis’ descendants to own a memento
of the Garcia’s home in San Diego. To this day, it is one of our most cherished possessions.

Written By : Juanita G. Santos