Monday, April 1, 2013

Elisabet Ney Museum

Elisabet Ney (1833–1907) was a German immigrant and an artist who was already accomplished as a sculptor during her years as a young woman in Germany.  There she sculpted the busts, from life, of famous personages and became integrated into their societies.  She met and fell in love with Edmund Montgomery, a young Scotsman. Edmund was a scholar, scientist and physician. Early in 1863, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis.

Elisabet and Edmund were both beautiful, brilliant, and rebellious against the norm of social conventions in their time.   They married in November of 1863, although Elisabet kept her maiden name and was known as "Miss Ney" for her entire life.  Together they emigrated from Germany to America. They arrived in America in 1871, and moved to Texas in 1873.

In Texas, the couple lived together for 19 years on an 1100 acre plantation, named Liendo, near Hempstead, Texas.  Here they aspired to live an idyllic existence away from the influence of society - but farming wasn't easy and they suffered repeated financial losses.   Elisabet had given up sculpture for motherhood.  She and Edmund had two children; one child died of diphtheria soon after arriving in Texas.   The second child, Lorne, was rebellious toward his mother.  

In 1892, Elisabet Ney was ready for a change.  The plantation had become too isolated; she longed to return to her earlier work creating sculpture and to the companionship of society.  She built for herself a neo-classical home in Hyde Park, a rural neighborhood of Austin, naming it Formosa, where she lived and worked for 14 years until her death in 1907.  Although at times she was utterly broke (at one point she entered a notice in the newspaper:  "To my creditors: - Please don’t bother to send me any bills. I have no money.  — Elisabet Ney, Sculptor") she finally secured the commission to create three sculptures for the Texas Legislature.  

Once in Austin, she became the center of a salon of cultured friends and visitors.  Young artists made pilgrimages here, and a social invitation to Formosa was held in high esteem.   Conversations were passionate, and from the guests at these gatherings emerged the ideas and energy to create a number of Texas arts institutions that survive to this day.  

At her death, the Austin Daily Statesman wrote: “She had so many friends. It was the woman, quite as much as the artist, that enamored herself to hundreds of warm friends and admirers.”  She is buried beside her husband at Liendo.

Elisabet Ney Museum

304 E. 44th St.  Austin, TX 78751

Wednesday - Saturday 10:00 am - 5:00 pm, Sunday noon - 5:00 pm; closed Mon., Tues.