Elisabet Ney

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Elisabet Ney
Elisabeth Ney by Friedrich Kaulbach.jpg
Elisabet Ney by Friedrich Kaulbach, 1860
With a bust of King George V of Hanover
BornFranzisca Bernadina Wilhelmina Elisabeth Ney
(1833-01-26)January 26, 1833
Münster, Westphalia, Germany
DiedJune 29, 1907(1907-06-29) (aged 74)
Austin, Texas
NationalityGerman American
Known forSculpture
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Elisabet Ney
Elisabeth Ney by Friedrich Kaulbach.jpg
Elisabet Ney by Friedrich Kaulbach, 1860
With a bust of King George V of Hanover
BornFranzisca Bernadina Wilhelmina Elisabeth Ney
(1833-01-26)January 26, 1833
Münster, Westphalia, Germany
DiedJune 29, 1907(1907-06-29) (aged 74)
Austin, Texas
NationalityGerman American
Known forSculpture

Franzisca Bernadina Wilhelmina Elisabeth Ney (26 January 1833, Münster — 29 June 1907, Austin, Texas) was a celebrated German-born sculptor who spent the first half of her life and career in Europe, producing sculpted works of famous leaders such as Otto von Bismarck, Giuseppe Garibaldi and King George V of Hanover. At age 39, she immigrated to Texas with her husband Edmund Montgomery and became a pioneer in the development of art there. Some of her most famous works during her Texas period included sculptures of Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin. Her works can be found in the Texas State Capitol, the US Capitol, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Early life[edit]

Ney was born in Münster, Westphalia, Germany to Johann Adam Ney, a stonecarver, and his wife Anna Elizabeth on January 26, 1833. The only other surviving child in the Ney family was her older brother Fritz. Her parents were Catholics of Alsatian-Polish heritage. She was the great-niece of Michel Ney, Marshal of France. Early in life, she declared her goal "to know great persons."[1][2]



Ney grew up assisting her stonecutter father in his work. She went on a weeks-long hunger strike when her parents opposed her becoming a sculptor, prompting her parents to request the assistance of their local Catholic church's Bishop. They finally relented and in 1852, she became the first female sculpture student at the all-male Munich Academy of Art by professor Max von Widnmann. She received her diploma on July 29, 1854. After graduating she moved to Berlin to study under Christian Daniel Rauch.[3][4]

Ney opened a studio in Berlin in 1857. German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer agreed to sit for a sculpted portrait at the persuasion of Edmund Montgomery. It was hailed as an artistic success and led to other commissions, most notably Jacob Grimm of the Brothers Grimm, Italian military leader Giuseppe Garibaldi, composer Richard Wagner as well as his future wife and daughter of Franz Liszt, Cosima von Bülow, Prussian-German political figure Otto von Bismarck, and King George V of Hanover who in turn commissioned her for a portrait of composer Josef Joachim. Shortly after completing the Bismarck bust, she was commissioned in 1868 by Prussian agents to sculpt a full-length portrait of Ludwig II of Bavaria in Munich. Her works of this period were in a traditional classical German style with an emphasis on realism and accurate scale.[1][5]

United States[edit]

In the early 1880s, Ney, by then a Texas resident, was invited to Austin by Governor Oran M. Roberts, which resulted in resumption of her artistic career.[6] In 1892, she built a studio and named it Formosa in the Hyde Park neighborhood north of Austin and began to seek commissions.[1][7]

In 1891, Ney was commissioned by the Board of Lady Managers of the Chicago World's Fair Association, and supplemented with $32,000 by the Texas state legislature, to model Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin for the Chicago World's Fair in 1893.[1][8][9] The marble sculptures of Houston and Austin can now be seen in both the Texas State Capitol in Austin and in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.. She was also commissioned to do a memorial to career military officer and war hero Albert Sidney Johnston which sits at his grave in the Texas State Cemetery.[10] She also sculpted a statue of Lady Macbeth that is now in the Smithsonian American Art Museum collection. She succeeded in having political figure, presidential candidate, and noted attorney William Jennings Bryan sit for a portrait.

The 1903 life-size portrait bust of Dr. David Thomas Iglehart can be found at Symphony Square in Austin, where it is on permanent loan to the Austin Symphony Society.[11] Possibly the last known work of Ney, that of a tousled haired cherub resting over a grave and known as the 1906 Schnerr Memorial, can be found at Der Stadt Friedhof in Fredericksburg, Texas.[12][13]

In addition to her sculpting activities, Ney was also active in cultural affairs in Austin. Formosa become a center for cultural gatherings and curiosity seekers. Both composer Paderewski and Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova were among her visitors.[1]

Personal life[edit]

While visiting friends in Heidelberg in 1853, Ney made the acquaintance of a young Scottish medical student, scientist, and philosopher[14] named Edmund Montgomery. It would be a meeting of minds and idealist rebellious spirits. They kept in touch, although she viewed the institution of marriage as a state of bondage for women. He would not be deterred, and after he established a medical practice in Madeira, they were married at the British consulate on November 7, 1863.

Ney, however, remained outspoken about women's roles. She refused to use Montgomery's name, often denied she was even married, and once remarked:[1][2][15]

She wore pants and rode her horses astride as men did. She liked to fashion her own clothes, which, in addition to the slacks, included boots and a black artist frock coat.[4]

Montgomery was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1863. By 1870, the Franco-Prussian War had begun. In autumn of that year, Ney became pregnant with their first child. Montgomery received a letter from his friend Baron Carl Vicco Otto Friedrich Constantin von Stralendorff of Mecklenburg-Schwerin who had moved to Thomasville, Georgia with his new wife Margaret Elizabeth Russell of Boston, Massachusetts, declaring the location "Earth's paradise."[16] On January 14, 1871, Ney and Montgomery, accompanied by their housekeeper Cenci, emigrated to Georgia, to a colony promoted as a resort for consumptives. Son Arthur (1871–1873) was born in Georgia, and son Lorne (1872–1913) was born in Red Wing, Minnesota during one of their travels.[16] Baron and Baroness von Stralendorff returned to Wismar, Germany where he died on July 1, 1872.[17][18][19]

In 1873, Ney traveled alone to Texas. With the help of German Consul Julius Runge in Galveston, she was shown Liendo Plantation near Hempstead in Waller County, Texas. On March 4, 1873, Montgomery and the rest of the family arrived, and he purchased it. While he tended to his research, she ran it for the next twenty years. Oldest son Arthur died of diphtheria in 1873.[20][21]

Death and legacy[edit]

Ney died in Austin on June 29, 1907 and is buried next to Montgomery, who died four years later, at Liendo Plantation.[22]

Upon her death, Montgomery sold the Formosa studio to Ella Dancy Dibrell. As per her wishes, its contents were bequeathed to the University of Texas at Austin, but were to remain in the building. In 1911, Dibrell and other friends established the Texas Fine Arts Association (now known as Arthouse) in her honor. It is the oldest Texas-wide organization existing for support of the visual arts. Formosa is now the home of the Elisabet Ney Museum. In 1941, the City of Austin took over the ownership and operation.[6][9][23]

In 1961, Lake Jackson Primary School in Lake Jackson, Texas was renamed Elisabet Ney Elementary School in her honor.[24]


Works (partial listing)[edit]

Source: Elisabet Ney Museum in Austin, Texas

1855Johann Adam NeyMunster
1855Anna Elisabeth Wernze NeyMunster
1855Tyras - Adam Ney's DogMunster
1856Grave Stele ReliefBerlin
1856Herman WeissBerlin
1857St. Sebastian Martyr - plasterMunster
1857St. Sebastian Martyr - marbleMunster
1857St. Sebastian ResurrectedMunster
1857Christ ResurrectedMunster
1858Jacob GrimmBerlin
1858Alexander von HumboldtBerlin
1858Cosima von BulowBerlin
1859Arthur Schopenhauer - plasterFrankfurt
1859Arthur Schopenhauer - marbleFrankfurt
1859King George V of Hanover - medallionHannover
1859King George V of Hanover - bustHannover
1859King George V of Hanover - colossal bustHannover
1861Joseph JoachimHannover
1861Eilhardt MitscherlichHannover
1861Ernst Herzog von BayernMunster
1861Franz Friedrich von Furstenberg - figureMunster
1862Walter von Platenberg - studyMunster
1862Walter von Platenberg - figureMunster
1862Count Englebert Vandermark - studyMunster
1861Count Englebert Vandermark - figureMunster
1862Justus Moser - figureMunster
1863Elisabet Ney self-portraitMedeira
1863Thomas TaylorEngland
1863Genii of Mankind - plasterEngland
1863Self-Portrait - plasterEngland
1863Self-Portrait - marbleMadeira
1864Edmund Montgomery - plasterMadeira
1864Edmund Montgomery - marbleMadeira
1864Lady Marian AlfordMadeira
1864Lord BrownlowMadeira
1864Genii of Mankind - marbleItaly
1865Giuseppe Garibaldi - statuetteItaly
1865Giuseppe Garibaldi - plasterItaly
1865Giuseppe Garibaldi - marbleItaly
1865Prometheus BoundAustria
1867Otto von Bismarck - plasterBerlin
1867Otto von Bismarck - marbleBerlin
1867Amalie Weiss JoachimHannover
1868Friedrich Woehler - bustMunich
1868Friedrich Woehler - colossal bustMunich
1868Baron Justus von Liebig - bustMunich
1868Baron Justus von Liebig - colossal bustMunich
1868Mercury - studyMunich
1868Mercury - colossal figureMunich
1868Iris - studyMunich
1868Iris - full figureMunich
1868Draped Figure - studyMunich
1868Male Figure - studyMunich
1868Frieze - studyMunich
1868Fountain - studyMunich
1868Count Georg von WerthernMunich
1868King Ludwig II - plasterMunich
1868King Ludwig II - marbleMunich
1868King Ludwig II - life-size plasterMunich
1868King Ludwig II - life-size marbleMunich
1874Lorne Ney Montgomery - castingsTexas
1885Oran M. Roberts - plasterTexas
1885Oran M. Roberts - marbleTexas
1886Lorne Ney MontgomeryTexas
1887Johanna RungeTexas
1887Julius RungeTexas
1892Benedette TobinTexas
1892Sam Houston as Young Man - plaster bustTexas
1892Sam Houston as Older Man - bronze bustTexas
1892Sam Houston - life-size plasterTexas
1892Sam Houston - life-size marbleTexas
1892Stephen F. Austin - studyTexas
1892Stephen F. Austin - plaster bustTexas
1893Stephen F. Austin - life-size plasterTexas
1893Stephen F. Austin - life-size marbleTexas
1893Governor W.P. Hardeman - plasterTexas
1893Governor W.P. Hardeman - marbleTexas
1895Carrie Pease Graham - plasterTexas
1895Carrie Pease Graham - marbleTexas
1895Senator John H. Reagan - plasterTexas
1895Senator John H. Reagan - marbleTexas
1895Governor Francis R. Lubbock - plasterTexas
1895Governor Francis R. Lubbock - marbleTexas
1896Paula Ebers - plasterBerlin
1896Paula Ebers - marbleBerlin
1896Unknown Female PhilanthropistBerlin
1896Unknown girlBerlin
1896Unknown womanBerlin
1896Dancing MaenidBerlin
1897Bride Neill Taylor - medallionTexas
1897Margaret Runge Rose - plasterTexas
1897Margaret Runge Rose - bronzeTexas
1899Sir Swante Palm - plasterTexas
1899Sir Swante Palm - marbleTexas
1899Lilly HaynieTexas
1899Steiner Burleson - plasterTexas
1899Steiner Burleson - marbleTexas
1899William Jennings Bryan - plasterTexas
1899William Jennings Bryan - marbleTexas
1900Guy M. Bryan - medallionTexas
1901Senator Joseph Dibrell - plasterTexas
1901Senator Joseph Dibrell - marbleTexas
1901Ella Dancy Dibrell - medallionTexas
1901Governor Joseph Sayers - plasterTexas
1902Governor Joseph Sayers - marbleTexas
1902Governor Sul Ross - plasterTexas
1902Governor Sul Ross - marbleTexas
1902Bust of ChristTexas
1902Albert Sidney Johnston - bustTexas
1902Albert Sidney Johnston - life-size plasterTexas
1902Albert Sidney Johnston - life-size marbleTexas
1902Jacob Bickler - medallionTexas
1902Lady Macbeth - studyTexas
1902Lady Macbeth - life-size plasterTexas
1902Lady Macbeth - life-size marbleTexas
1903Dr. David Thomas Iglehart - plasterTexas
1902Dr. David Thomas Iglehart - bronzeTexas
1903Miller Baby castTexas
1904Helen Marr KirbyTexas
1905Dr. William Lamdin PratherTexas
1906Schnerr Memorial - waxTexas
1906Schnerr Memorial - plasterTexas
1906Schnerr Memorial - marbleTexas


  1. ^ a b c d e f Abernathy, Francis Edward (1994). Legendary Ladies of Texas. University of North Texas Press. pp. 95–105. ISBN 978-0-929398-75-4. 
  2. ^ a b Ledbetter, Suzann (2006). Shady Ladies: Nineteen Surprising and Rebellious American Women. Forge Books. pp. 179–192. ISBN 978-0-7653-0827-6. 
  3. ^ Reimers, Peggy A (2006). Lone Star Legends. P.A. Reimers. pp. 1–5. ISBN 978-1-4276-0624-2. 
  4. ^ a b Ingham, Donna (2006). You Know You're in Texas When... Globe Pequot. p. 69. ISBN 978-0-7627-3811-3. 
  5. ^ "Elisabet Ney Education 1863-1857". City of Austin Parks and Recreation Dept. Retrieved 31 October 2010. 
  6. ^ a b Little, Carol Morris (1996). A Comprehensive Guide to Outdoor Sculpture in Texas. University of Texas Press. pp. 4–6. ISBN 978-0-292-76034-9. 
  7. ^ "Elisabet Ney-Formosa studio". City of Austin Parks and Recreation Dept. Retrieved 2 November 2010. 
  8. ^ Walton, Andrea (2005). Women and Philanthropy in Education. Indiana University Press. p. 248. ISBN 978-0-253-34466-3. 
  9. ^ a b Fisher, James D. "Elisabet Ney Museum". Handbook of Texas online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 4 November 2010. 
  10. ^ Baird, David (2009). Frommer's San Antonio and Austin. Frommers. p. 232. ISBN 978-0-470-43789-6. 
  11. ^ Little, Carol Morris, 1996, p75
  12. ^ Elizabeth Emma Schneider Schnerr at Find a Grave
  13. ^ "Elizabeth Emma Schneider Schnerr". Der Stadt Friedhof. Fredericksburg Genealogical Society. Retrieved 22 April 2014. 
  14. ^ http://lsjunction.com/people/ney.htm
  15. ^ Lau, Barbara (July 1981). "The Woman Who Found The Women". The Alcalde: 14. 
  16. ^ a b "Elisabet Ney Emigration 1871-1873". City of Austin Parks and Recreation Dept. Retrieved 31 October 2010. 
  17. ^ New England Historic Genealogical Society Staff (1873). The New England Historical and Genealogical Register. New England Historic Genealogical Society Staff. p. 291. 
  18. ^ Stephens, Ira Kendrick (1951). The Hermit Philosopher of Liendo. Southern Methodist University Press. p. 136. 
  19. ^ "Edmund Montgomery and Elisabet Ney papers". SMU. Retrieved 29 October 2010. 
  20. ^ "Elisabet Ney Liendo 1873-1891". City of Austin Parks and Recreation Dept. Retrieved 31 October 2010. 
  21. ^ Meischen, Betty Smith (2002). From Jamestown to Texas. IUniverse. pp. 43–45. ISBN 978-0-595-24223-8. 
  22. ^ "Liendo Plantation". Retrieved 28 October 2010. 
  23. ^ Cohen, Rebecca S (2004). Art Guide Texas: Museums, Art Centers, Alternative Spaces, and Nonprofit Galleries. University of Texas Press. p. 305. ISBN 978-0-292-71230-0. 
  24. ^ "Lake Jackson Elementary School". Brazosport ISD. Retrieved 4 November 2010. 

Additional sources[edit]

Elisabet Ney in fiction[edit]

Ney appears as a character in the novel A Twist at the End: A Novel of O. Henry (Simon & Schuster, 2000) by Steven Saylor.

External links[edit]