Elisabet Ney Museum
The Elisabet Ney Museum is a museum in Austin, Texas, United States. It is housed in the former workshop of sculptor Elisabet Ney and is dedicated to presenting her life and works. Her portrait busts and personal mementos are on permanent exhibit.
Elisabet Ney (1833-1907), a European portrait sculptress, bought property in Austin in 1892, opened a workshop called Formosa, and restarted her career as a recognized sculptor of notables.
Ney sculpted great Texans at Formosa, including Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston. Ney also gathered in her American studio pictures of European notables such as King Ludwig II of Bavaria, Otto von Bismarck, Arthur Schopenhauer, and Jacob Grimm, many of whom she had met as a young artist in Europe.
From Studio to Museum
At the turn of the nineteenth century, Elisabet Ney’s workshop became a meeting spot for powerful Texans drawn to “Miss Ney” and the lively talks of politics, art, and philosophy that took place there. Following Ney’s death in 1907, her friends established the Elisabet Ney Museum and the Texas Fine Arts Association in her honor.
About the Museum
The Elisabet Ney Museum is on the National Register of Historic Places because of its significance as Elisabet Ney’s old American studio. The museum is also a part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios program. Unless otherwise noted, the portraits and personal mementos in the Elisabet Ney Museum are part of the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin’s Elisabet Ney Collection.
The structure was erected in two phases and is an uncommon architectural mixture of limestone architecture. The first phase culminated in the 1892 construction of the Neo-Classical main studio and reception room. The second phase, finished in 1902, included a large basement, additional studio space, a lovely parlor, and a tower where her husband Edmund would write. Elisabet spent most of her evenings on the roof; doors in floors, ceilings, and walls lead into and out of the structure.
On 2.5 acres in Austin’s National Register Historic Neighborhood of Hyde Park, nearly half of the land is planted as a reproduction of the prairie biome that existed on the site when she arrived. Extensive work was done to keep the terrain as natural as possible, with invasive plants replaced as thoroughly as possible with natives. This comprises grasses, trees, and wildflowers. Much of the year, it is a gold mine for pollinators, as many of the plants found here are rarely found elsewhere, especially within the city limits.
The museum displays a collection of originals and copies of Ney’s works, as well as many of her personal possessions and instruments. Her portraits of European figures such as King Ludwig II of Bavaria, Otto von Bismarck, Giuseppe Garibaldi, and Arthur Schopenhauer, as well as Americans William Jennings Bryan, Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin, and General Albert Sidney Johnston, are among the more than fifty busts, medallions, and full-sized figures on display.
Franzisca Bernadina Wilhelmina Elisabeth Ney (26 January 1833 – 29 June 1907) was a German-American sculptor who spent the first half of her life and career in Europe, painting portraits of prominent personalities such as Otto von Bismarck, Giuseppe Garibaldi, and King George V of Hanover. She moved to Texas with her husband, Edmund Montgomery, at the age of 39, and became a pioneer in the development of art there. Among her most famous works during her Texas time were life-size marble sculptures of Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin commissioned for the Texas State Capitol. The Elisabet Ney Museum, located in her home and studio in Austin, houses a substantial collection of her works. Other paintings can be found in the United States Capitol, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and other German collections.
Ney died in her studio on June 29, 1907, and is buried with Montgomery, who died four years later, at Liendo Plantation.
Montgomery sold the Formosa studio to Ella Dancy Dibrell when she died. According to her desires, the furnishings were bequeathed to the University of Texas at Austin but were to remain in the building. Dibrell and other friends founded the Texas Fine Arts Association (now known as the Contemporary Austin) in her honor on April 6, 1911. It is the state’s oldest visual arts organization. The Elisabet Ney Museum has moved to Formosa. Austin took over ownership and operation in 1941.
In her honor, Lake Jackson Primary School in Lake Jackson, Texas was renamed Elisabet Ney Elementary School in 1961.
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