Elisabet Ney papers
Biographical accounts; a history of the Ney Museum; Ney family, business and Ney Museum correspondence, 1871-1981; a transcript of an interview with the museum's curator, Mrs. J.W. Rutland; articles and poems dedicated to Ney and 4 of her notebooks, 1865-1898, containing letters and accounts of her experiences with Guiseppe Garibaldi and her travels to Egypt; legal documents, Ney's marriage certificate, contracts for indenture, deeds and wills of her husband, Edmund Montgomery; financial records; organizational records of the museum including attendance figures, financial reports and minutes; printed material, brochures and clippings about Ney and the museum; photographs, 1896-1961, of Ney, Ney with her work, and in her studio.
- Ney, Elisabet, 1833-1907 (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
Microfilm reels 3341-3345 available for use only at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and through interlibrary loan.
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5 Microfilm Reels
Biographical / Historical
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
Other Finding Aids
AAA online guide at
Lent for microfilming, 1984, by the Elisabet Ney Museum via James Fisher, as part of the Archives of American Art's Texas project. [From Smithsonian AAA]
Note: The Elisabet Ney Papers were microfilmed for the Texas Art Project at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston as part of the Smithsonian Institution's Archives of American Art. Currently the papers can be accessed on microfilm at the MFAH. The University of Houston Libraries and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston are digitizing these papers as part of a collaborative TexTreasures 2020 grant project through the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) with funding from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).When digitization is complete, these papers will be made available online through UH Libraries and MFAH websites.
Existence and Location of Originals
Originals in Elisabet Ney Museum Austin, Texas. The Archives of American art does not own the original papers. Use is limited to the microfilm copy.
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