Elisabet Ney, 1833-1907

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Woman Category: ArtsWoman Tags: Austin Women and Sculptress

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    A famous German-American sculptress who is considered a pioneer in the Texan art field.

    Born as Franzisca Bernadine Wilhelmina Elisabet Ney in Münster, Prussia (today German). As a child, she was assisting her father with his job as a stone carver. After graduating from the local school, she announced that she is moving to Berlin to study sculpture, but her parents refused because a good Catholic girl does not move on her own to Berlin as well as women were not accepted to art schools in Berlin. Eventually, her parents permitted her to study sculpture, but instead of Berlin, the 19 years old, Ney moved to Munich. At first, she studied with a private teacher, and later she was admitted to the Royal Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts, becoming the first woman to be admitted to the Academy’s School of Sculpture. She graduated with high honors and moved to Berlin to study at the Berlin Academy of Art, where Christian Daniel Rauch was her teacher. Through him, she met many notable and renowned people, who later, after she opened her studio, become her sculptures’ subjects, including the brothers Grimm, Giuseppe Garibaldi, and Richard Wagner.
     
    Back in Munich, Ney met Edmund Montgomery, a Scottish medical student at the time. They got married, even though she believed that the institution of marriage is a state of bondage for women. She kept her surname, remained outspoken about her view of women’s roles, and often denied she was married. The couple lived for a while in Madeira and Rome before migrating to Thomasville, Georgia, to avoid the Franco-Prussian War and in the hope of establishing a colony of like-minded people in America. Pregnant with her first child, Ney quit sculpturing for nearly 20 years to take care of her family as well as to run the Liendo plantation they bought after moving to Galveston, Texas.
     
    In 1890, when she was almost sixty years old, Ney received a commission to sculpture the figures of Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin that was supposed to be displayed at the Woman’s Building at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition Fair in Chicago. Although she missed the deadline, the two life-sized statues can be seen today at the Texas State Capitol in Austin and the National Statuary Hall Collection in the US Capitol. In 1892 she set Austin as her new home, a house in a Greek temple style with a studio and large wild garden. She named it “Formosa” and it became a cultural gathering center, which made a great impact on the city’s art scene. She continued to sculpt till her last day, on June 29, 1907. She and her husband, who died four years later, are buried in Liendo plantation.
     

    “Women are fools to be bothered with housework. Look at me: I sleep in a hammock which requires no making up. I break an egg and sip it raw. I make lemonade in a glass, and then rinse it, and my housework is done for the day.”

    “Women are fools to be bothered with housework. Look at me: I sleep in a hammock which requires no making up. I break an egg and sip it raw. I make lemonade in a glass, and then rinse it, and my housework is done for the day.”

     


    More Interesting Anecdotes:

    • She went on a hunger strike for weeks when her parents refused to let her study in Berlin.
    • She was the court sculptor of Ludwig II the king of Bavaria.
    • She used to fashion her own clothes, wearing pants, boots, a black frock coat, and was known for wearing Bloomers – pants that were worn under a short dress.
    • She had two sons, the older died at the age of two due to diphtheria.
    • The Texas Fine Arts Association was founded in her honor.
    • She sculptured more than 100 sculptures. Some can be seen in museums. One of her last works, which is considered her masterpiece, is a statue of Lady Macbeth located in the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC.
  • One of Her Landmarks

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  • Woman Tags: Austin Women, Sculptress

  • Photo credit - Shutterstock


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