Ney, Elisabet, 1833-1907
Prussian-born sculptor, Franzisca Bernadina Whilhelmina Elisabet Ney (Elisabet Ney), was born in Münster, in the then Prussian province of Westphalia in 1833. She was admitted to the Royal Bavarian Academy as a sculptor in 1852, and became a student of Christian Daniel Rauch in 1854 after moving to Berlin. Prior to immigrating, Ney was an accomplished sculptor in Europe, carrying out commissions for prominent figures such as Arthur Schopenhauer in 1860, King George V in 1861, Otto E. L. von Bismark-Schönhausen, King Ludwig II in 1870, and a number of members of the Westhphalian parliament among others. She traveled to Italy in 1865 to sculpt Giuseppe Garibaldi, and also established a studio in Rome for a year.
In 1871 she and her family immigrated to the United States and moved to Hempstead, TX in 1873. In 1890, Ney moved to Austin and resumed an active role in art circles in addition to again acquiring a number of high-profile commissions, including a commission from the State of Texas in 1892. This commission was for plaster statues of General Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin to be displayed in the Texas Pavilion at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. In 1901, she was commissioned to execute her statues of Austin and Gen. Houston in marble for the Texas Capitol building, as well as to create copies for the U.S. Capitol. In 1905 she completed one of her most famous pieces, a marble statue of Lady Macbeth. Now housed in the Smithsonian Museum of Art, Ney’s Lady Macbeth is said to be “both a dramatic portrayal of a famous Shakespearean character and a self-portrait” and was considered by the artist herself to be her masterpiece. Elisabet Ney died in 1907. In 1911, the Texas Fine Art Association was founded in her name, and would prove to be an important early promoter of the arts in Texas. Ney’s Austin studio, “Formosa,” was used by the Association for many years after Ney’s death to host exhibitions and is now the Elisabet Ney Museum. Built in 1893, the building itself is thought to be one of the earliest artist’s studios in Texas and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.
Sources: Powers, John and Deborah. Texas Painters, Sculptures & Graphic Artists: A Biographical Dictionary of Artists in Texas before 1942. Woodmont Books: Austin, Texas, 2000