Elisabet Ney Papers
An Inventory of the Collection
Franzisca Bernadina Wilhelmina Elisabet Ney, one of the first professional sculptors in Texas and the first in Austin, was born in Münster, Westphalia, on January 26, 1833, to Johann Adam and Anna Elizabeth (Wernze) Ney, a Catholic stonecarver/sculptor and his wife. Ney was the first female student to enter and graduate from the Munich Academy of Art in 1852. She went on to study, on full scholarship, at the Berlin Academy under Christian Daniel Rauch, a leading sculptor in Europe during the mid-nineteenth century. Following her studies under Rauch, she traveled thoughout Europe and was commissioned to complete the busts of several well-known figures including Jacob Grimm, Alexander von Humboldt, Arthur Shopenhauer, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Otto von Bismarck and King Ludwig II of Bavaria.
Ney married Scottish scientist and physician Edmund Duncan Montgomery on November 7, 1863 in Madeira, Portugal. An early feminist, Ney insisted on using her maiden name throughout her married life. Her husband always referred to her in conversation as "Miss Ney". In 1871, they immigrated to the United States and settled in Thomasville, Georgia, where their two sons, Arthur and Lorne, were born. In 1873, following the death of their son, Arthur, they purchased Liendo Plantation in Hempstead, Waller County, Texas. For the next twenty years, Ney managed the plantation while her husband pursued his scientific interests.
In 1890, Elisabet Ney was invited to Austin by her friend, former Governor Oram M. Roberts. This invitation led directly to her first contract as a creative artist in over twenty years. She was commissioned to create statues of General Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin to be exhibited in the Texas Pavilion at the Chicago World's Fair of 1893. Both statues are currently on display in the state Capitol. Copies of the two statues are also in the United States Capitol.
In 1892, Ney relocated to the outskirts of Austin in the newly established suburb of Hyde Park and built a studio, "Formosa", along the banks of Waller Creek. She became aquainted with and eventually befriended many influential Austinites including Lucadia and Julia Pease, Bride Neill Taylor, Nannie and William Huddle, the Burlesons and Jacob Bickler. She lived in Austin until her death on June 29, 1907. She was buried at Liendo Plantation in Hempstead. Two years after Ney's death, Formosa was purchased by Ella and Joseph B. Dibrell in order to preserve it as an art center in the artist's honor. In 1911, the Texas Fine Arts Association was also founded in her honor by several of her supporters, including Julie Pease and Bride Taylor.
The collection consists of personal letters (1892-1905, undated) written by Elisabet Ney during the period that she lived and worked in Austin, Texas at Formosa (304 East 44th St.). Some of the letters concern the commissions for the General Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin statues while other concern the establishemnt of her Hyde Park studio.
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This collection was initially created in 1971 from a variety of sources. Some of the letters were donated to the Austin History Center (formerly the Austin - Travis County Collection) by Mrs. J.W. Rutland and the Elisabet Ney Museum in exchange for copies of other Ney letters owned by the Austin History Center (AHC). Others were copies of letters loaned to AHC by Mr. Max Bickler.
Elisabet Ney Papers (AR.J.006). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.
Donor # DO/1960/049, DO/1974/111, DO/1977/070
Donation Date: 1971 March
Final Processing and encoding by Susan Rittereiser/2010 February
Detailed Description of the Collection