History

She Sculpted Legendary Texans: Elisabet Ney’s Art Displayed in a Unique Museum, Her Historic Home

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Ever hear of Fanzisca Bernadina Wilhelmina Elisabet Ney? Most people haven’t, but Elisabet was a remarkable lady who lived the majority of her life in the 19th century. So what did she do, and why should you visit the free museum devoted to her in Austin, Texas?

Ney was a renowned sculpture during her time on earth. Born in 1833 in Germany, she painted portraits of celebrated men and women. Otto Von Bismark and Jacob Grimm (of the Brothers Grimm) are among her notable German works. She married Edmund Montgomery in 1863, a German physician. Her husband developed tuberculosis, and in 1871 due to his health, the couple moved to the state of Georgia here in the United States.

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Photo: Facebook/Elisabet Ney Museum

Two years later, Elisabet, age 39, visited Waller County, Texas. Her husband and children arrived later, and he purchased a plantation near Hempstead, Texas. He turned his attention to medical research while Elisabet ran the plantation.

Ney returned to art in the early 1880s. She explored Austin and built a studio in 1892 in the Hyde Park neighborhood of the capital city. Commissions soon came her way. She sculped two famous men of Texas: Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin. You can now see the sculptures of these two in the Texas State Capitol.

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Photo: Facebook/Elisabet Ney Museum

Elisabeth Ney was a feminist before the term was popular. She refused to take her husband’s name—even denied her marriage upon occasions and persisted on speaking out about women’s issues. Slacks, not dresses, were her favorite attire, and she refused to ride a horse side saddle.

A vast quantity of her creations is housed in her former home and studio, now a museum in Austin. She died in 1907 at the age of 74 in Austin, but she left a lot of art to appreciate. You’ll enjoy learning about her interesting life at the Elisabet Ney Museum.  And it’s free!