A renowned sculptor from Bavaria, Elisabet Ney moved to Texas with her husband in 1872. Her unconventional lifestyle and progressive ideas made her a controversial figure. She secured a commission to create statues of Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston for the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. The two statues now stand respectively, in the capitols in Austin and Washington, D.C. Another of Ney's works, a statue of General Albert Sidney Johnston, is in the State Cemetery. She became an outspoken advocate of the teaching of fine arts in the state's schools and was instrumental in the founding of the Texas Fine Arts Association. Her home in Austin is one of the oldest active museums in the state.
Written by Cynthia J. Beeman
Read by Sara Hickman
A renowned sculptor from Germany, Elisabet Ney moved to Texas with her husband, Scottish doctor Edmund Montgomery, in 1872, and established a home at Liendo Plantation near Hempstead. After Ney secured contracts from the State of Texas to sculpt statues of Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston for the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, she maintained a second home and studio in Austin. Her works are on display in the Texas and U.S. Capitol buildings, the Smithsonian Institution, and at her Austin studio, which she named Formosa and which is now the Elisabet Ney Museum in the Hyde Park neighborhood. Her recumbent statue of Civil War general Albert Sidney Johnston is among the most impressive monuments in the Texas State Cemetery.
Ney’s Formosa studio became a gathering place for a wide range of friends whose discussions of art, culture, philosophy, and politics led to the founding of such institutions as the Texas Fine Arts Association and the Texas Commission on the Arts. Many of her Hyde Park neighbors recalled "Miss Ney" as being a bit eccentric, commenting particularly on her mode of dress and the unusual refreshments she served to her guests. She often refused to see visitors if she was working, and on occasion paddled out to the middle of a small lake on her property to be alone.
Cutrer, Emily. The Art of the Woman. University of Nebraska Press, 1988.
Elisabet Ney historical marker file (Travis County), Texas Historical Commission, Austin.
Emily F. Cutrer, "NEY, ELISABET," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fne26).
Biography Source Information
Biographies are reprinted from the Foundation for Women’s Resources (now Women’s Resources), Dallas, Texas. They originally appeared in "From Gutsy Mavericks to Quiet Heroes: True Tales of Texas Women," video study guide, Austin: The Foundation for Women's Resources, 1997. Death dates have been added where needed.
Audio Source Information
Our project, "Texas Women's History Moments," received the 2012 National Council on Public History Outstanding Public History Award and the American Association for State and Local History Leadership in History Award. The audio clips were broadcast on KUT radio from 2011-2016 during Women’s History Month.