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Franzisca Bernadina Wilhelmina Elisabeth Ney (26 January 1833 – 29 June 1907) was a celebrated German-American sculptor who spent the first half of her life and career in Europe, producing portraits of famous leaders such as Otto von Bismarck, Giuseppe Garibaldi and King George V of Hanover. At age 39, she immigrated to Texas with her husband, Edmund Montgomery, and became a pioneer in the development of art there. Among her most famous works during her Texas period were life-size marble figures of Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin, commissions for the Texas State Capitol. A large group of her works are housed in the Elisabet Ney Museum, located in her home and studio in Austin. Other works can be found in the US Capitol, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and numerous collections in Germany.

Elisabet Ney
Elisabeth Ney by Friedrich Kaulbach.jpg
Elisabet Ney by Friedrich Kaulbach, 1860
With a bust of King George V of Hanover
Franzisca Bernadina Wilhelmina Elisabeth Ney

(1833-01-26)January 26, 1833
DiedJune 29, 1907(1907-06-29) (aged 74)
NationalityGerman, American
Known forSculpture
Spouse(s)Edmund Montgomery
Memorial(s)Elisabet Ney Museum

Early lifeEdit

Ney was born in Münster, in the Province of Westphalia, to Johann Adam Ney, a stonecarver, and Anna Elizabeth. The only other surviving child in the Ney family was her older brother, Fritz. Her parents were Catholics of Alsatian-Polish heritage. She was the great-niece of Michel Ney, Marshal of France. Early in life, she declared her goal "to know great persons."[1][2]



Ney grew up assisting her father in his work. She went on a weeks-long hunger strike when her parents opposed her becoming a sculptor, prompting her parents to request the assistance of their local bishop. They finally relented and in 1852, she became the first female sculpture student at the Munich Academy of Art by professor Max von Widnmann. She received her diploma on July 29, 1854. After graduating she moved to Berlin to study under Christian Daniel Rauch.[3][4]

Ney opened a studio in Berlin in 1857. The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer agreed to sit for a sculpted portrait at the persuasion of Edmund Montgomery, whom she would marry in 1863. It was hailed as an artistic success and led to other commissions, most notably Jacob Grimm of the Brothers Grimm, the Italian military leader Giuseppe Garibaldi, the composer Richard Wagner, Cosima von Bülow (the daughter of Franz Liszt and Wagner's future wife), the Prussian-German political figure Otto von Bismarck, and King George V of Hanover. The latter also commissioned bust portraits of the composer Josef Joachim and his wife, the contralto Amalie Weiss Joachim. Shortly after completing the Bismarck bust, Ney was commissioned in 1868 by Prussian agents to sculpt a full-length portrait of Ludwig II of Bavaria in Munich. Her works of this period were in a traditional classical German style with an emphasis on realism and accurate scale.[1][5]

United StatesEdit

In the early 1880s, Ney, by then a Texas resident, was invited to Austin by Governor Oran M. Roberts, which resulted in the resumption of her artistic career.[6] In 1892, she built a studio named Formosa in the Hyde Park neighborhood north of Austin and began to seek commissions.[1][7]

In 1891, Ney was commissioned by the Board of Lady Managers of the Chicago World's Fair Association, and supplemented with $32,000 by the Texas state legislature, to model figures of Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin for the Woman's Building at the World's Columbian Exposition World's Fair in 1893.[1][8][9] Ney missed the deadline and the sculptures were not shown at the Exhibition.[10] The marble sculptures of Houston and Austin can now be seen in both the Texas State Capitol in Austin and in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.. She was also commissioned to design a memorial to the career military officer and war hero Albert Sidney Johnston for his grave in the Texas State Cemetery.[11] One of her signature works was the figure of Lady Macbeth; the plaster model is in the Elisabet Ney Museum and the completed marble is in the Smithsonian American Art Museum collection. She succeeded in having the orator, three-time presidential candidate, and noted attorney William Jennings Bryan sit for a portrait; she hoped to sell replicas of this bust to debate clubs across the country.

The 1903 life-size portrait bust of Dr. David Thomas Iglehart can be found at Symphony Square in Austin, where it is on permanent loan to the Austin Symphony Society.[12] Possibly the last known work by Ney, that of a tousled haired cherub resting over a grave and known as the 1906 Schnerr Memorial, can be found at Der Stadt Friedhof in Fredericksburg, Texas.[13]

In addition to her sculpting activities, Ney was also active in cultural affairs in Austin. Formosa become a center for cultural gatherings and curiosity seekers. The composer Paderewski and the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova were among her visitors.[1]

Personal lifeEdit

While visiting friends in Heidelberg in 1853, Ney made the acquaintance of a young Scottish medical student, scientist, and philosopher[14] named Edmund Montgomery. It would be a meeting of minds and idealist rebellious spirits. They kept in touch, although she viewed the institution of marriage as a state of bondage for women. He would not be deterred, and after he established a medical practice in Madeira, they were married at the British consulate there on November 7, 1863.

Ney, however, remained outspoken about women's roles. She refused to use Montgomery's name, often denied she was even married, and once remarked:[1][2][15]

Women are fools to be bothered with housework. Look at me; I sleep in a hammock which requires no making up. I break an egg and sip it raw. I make lemonade in a glass, and then rinse it, and my housework is done for the day.

She wore pants and rode her horses astride as men did. She liked to fashion her own clothes, which, in addition to the slacks, included boots and a black artist frock coat.[4]

Montgomery was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1863. By 1870, the Franco-Prussian War had begun. In autumn of that year, Ney became pregnant with their first child. Montgomery received a letter from his friend, Baron Carl Vicco Otto Friedrich Constantin von Stralendorff of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, who had moved to Thomasville, Georgia with his new wife, Margaret Elizabeth Russell of Boston, Massachusetts, declaring the location "Earth's paradise."[16] On January 14, 1871, Ney and Montgomery, accompanied by their housekeeper, Cenci, immigrated to Georgia, to a colony promoted as a resort for consumptives. Their first son, Arthur, was born there in 1871, but died of diphtheria two years later. Unfortunately, the Thomasville colony did not work out as they had hoped. Baron and Baroness von Stralendorff returned to Wismar, Germany where he died on July 1, 1872.[17][18][19]

Ney and Montgomery looked elsewhere in the United States for a place to live, including Minnesota, where their second son, Lorne, was born in 1873. Later that year, Ney traveled alone to Texas. With the help of Julius Runge a businessman in Galveston, she was shown Liendo Plantation near Hempstead in Waller County. On March 4, 1873, Montgomery and the rest of the family arrived, and they purchased the plantation. While he tended to his research, she ran it for the next twenty years.

Death and legacyEdit

Ney died in her studio on June 29, 1907, and is buried next to Montgomery, who died four years later, at Liendo Plantation.[20]

Upon her death, Montgomery sold the Formosa studio to Ella Dancy Dibrell. As per her wishes, its contents were bequeathed to the University of Texas at Austin, but were to remain in the building. In 1911, Dibrell and other friends established the Texas Fine Arts Association (after more than a century in existence, the organization is now known as the Contemporary Austin) in her honor. It is the oldest Texas-wide organization existing for support of the visual arts. Formosa is now the home of the Elisabet Ney Museum. In 1941, the City of Austin took over the ownership and operation.[6][9][21]

In 1961, Lake Jackson Primary School in Lake Jackson, Texas was renamed Elisabet Ney Elementary School in her honor.[22]



Below is a partial listing of her works.[23]

Year Work Location
1855 Johann Adam Ney Munster
1855 Anna Elisabeth Wernze Ney Munster
1855 Tyras – Adam Ney's Dog Munster
1856 Grave Stele Relief Berlin
1856 Herman Weiss Berlin
1857 St. Sebastian Martyr – plaster Munster
1857 St. Sebastian Martyr – marble Munster
1857 St. Sebastian Resurrected Munster
1857 Christ Resurrected Munster
1858 Jacob Grimmmarble Berlin
1858 Alexander von Humboldt Berlin
1858 Cosima von Bulow Berlin
1859 Arthur Schopenhauer – plaster Frankfurt
1859 Arthur Schopenhauermarble Frankfurt
1859 King George V of Hanover – medallion Hannover
1859 King George V of Hanover – bust Hannover
1859 King George V of Hanover – colossal bust Hannover
1861 Joseph Joachim Hannover
1861 Eilhard Mitscherlich - plaster Hannover
1861 Ernst Herzog von Bayern Munster
1861 Franz Friedrich von Furstenberg – figure Munster
1862 Walter von Platenberg – study Munster
1862 Walter von Platenberg – figure Munster
1862 Count Englebert Vandermark – study Munster
1861 Count Englebert Vandermark – figure Munster
1862 Justus Moser – figure Munster
1863 Ricci England
1863 Elisabet Ney self-portrait Madeira
1863 Thomas Taylor England
1863 Genii of Mankind – plaster England
1863 Self-Portrait – plaster England
1863 Self-Portrait – marble Madeira
1863 Eilhard Mitscherlich - marble Hannover
1864 Edmund Montgomery – plaster Madeira
1864 Edmund Montgomery – marble Madeira
1864 Lady Marian Alford Madeira
1864 Lord Brownlow Madeira
1864 Genii of Mankind – marble Italy
1865 Giuseppe Garibaldi – statuette Italy
1865 Giuseppe Garibaldi – plaster Italy
1865 Giuseppe Garibaldimarble Italy
1865 Prometheus Bound Austria
1867 Otto von Bismarck – plaster Berlin
1867 Otto von Bismarck – marble Berlin
1867 Amalie Weiss Joachim Hannover
1868 Friedrich Woehler – bust Munich
1868 Friedrich Woehler – colossal bust Munich
1868 Baron Justus von Liebig – bust Munich
1868 Baron Justus von Liebig – colossal bust Munich
1868 Mercury – study Munich
1868 Mercury – colossal figure Munich
1868 Iris – study Munich
1868 Iris – full figure Munich
1868 Draped Figure – study Munich
1868 Male Figure – study Munich
1868 Frieze – study Munich
1868 Fountain – study Munich
1868 Count Georg von Werthern Munich
1868 King Ludwig II – plaster Munich
1868 King Ludwig II – marble Munich
1868 King Ludwig IIlife-size plaster Munich
1874 Lorne Ney Montgomery – castings Texas
1885 Oran M. Roberts – plaster Texas
1885 Oran M. Roberts – marble Texas
1886 Lorne Ney Montgomery Texas
1887 Johanna Runge Texas
1887 Julius Runge Texas
1892 Benedette Tobin Texas
1892 Sam Houston as Young Man – plaster bust Texas
1892 Sam Houston as Older Man – bronze bust Texas
1892 Sam Houston – life-size plaster Texas
1892 Sam Houstonlife-size marble Texas
1892 Stephen F. Austin – study Texas
1892 Stephen F. Austin – plaster bust Texas
1893 Stephen F. Austin – life-size plaster Texas
1893 Stephen F. Austinlife-size marble Texas
1893 Governor W.P. Hardeman – plaster Texas
1893 Governor W.P. Hardeman – marble Texas
1895 Carrie Pease Graham – plaster Texas
1895 Carrie Pease Graham – marble Texas
1895 Senator John H. Reagan – plaster Texas
1895 Senator John H. Reagan – marble Texas
1895 Governor Francis R. Lubbock – plaster Texas
1895 Governor Francis R. Lubbock – marble Texas
1896 Paula Ebers – plaster Berlin
1896 Paula Ebers – marble Berlin
1896 Unknown Female Philanthropist Berlin
1896 Unknown girl Berlin
1896 Unknown woman Berlin
1896 Dancing Maenid Berlin
1897 Bride Neill Taylor – medallion Texas
1897 Margaret Runge Rose – plaster Texas
1897 Margaret Runge Rose – bronze Texas
1899 Sir Swante Palm – plaster Texas
1899 Sir Swante Palm – marble Texas
1899 Lilly Haynie Texas
1899 Steiner Burleson – plaster Texas
1899 Steiner Burleson – marble Texas
1899 William Jennings Bryan – plaster Texas
1899 William Jennings Bryan – marble Texas
1900 Guy M. Bryan – medallion Texas
1901 Senator Joseph Dibrell – plaster Texas
1901 Senator Joseph Dibrell – marble Texas
1901 Ella Dancy Dibrell – medallion Texas
1901 Governor Joseph Sayers – plaster Texas
1902 Governor Joseph Sayers – marble Texas
1902 Governor Sul Ross – plaster Texas
1902 Governor Sul Ross – marble Texas
1902 Bust of Christ Texas
1902 Albert Sidney Johnston – bust Texas
1902 Albert Sidney Johnston – life-size plaster Texas
1902 Albert Sidney Johnston – life-size marble Texas
1902 Jacob Bickler – medallion Texas
1902 Lady Macbeth – study Texas
1902 Lady Macbeth – life-size plaster Texas
1902 Lady Macbethlife-size marble Texas
1903 Dr. David Thomas Iglehart – plaster Texas
1902 Dr. David Thomas Iglehart – bronze Texas
1903 Miller Baby cast Texas
1904 Helen Marr Kirby Texas
1905 Dr. William Lamdin Prather Texas
1906 Schnerr Memorial – wax Texas
1906 Schnerr Memorial – plaster Texas
1906 Schnerr Memorial – marble Texas


  1. ^ a b c d e f Abernathy, Francis Edward (1994). Legendary Ladies of Texas. University of North Texas Press. pp. 95–105. ISBN 978-0-929398-75-4.
  2. ^ a b Ledbetter, Suzann (2006). Shady Ladies: Nineteen Surprising and Rebellious American Women. Forge Books. pp. 179–192. ISBN 978-0-7653-0827-6.
  3. ^ Reimers, Peggy A (2006). Lone Star Legends. P.A. Reimers. pp. 1–5. ISBN 978-1-4276-0624-2.
  4. ^ a b Ingham, Donna (2006). You Know You're in Texas When... Globe Pequot. p. 69. ISBN 978-0-7627-3811-3.
  5. ^ "Elisabet Ney Education 1863–1857". City of Austin Parks and Recreation Dept. Retrieved 31 October 2010.
  6. ^ a b Little, Carol Morris (1996). A Comprehensive Guide to Outdoor Sculpture in Texas. University of Texas Press. pp. 4–6. ISBN 978-0-292-76034-9.
  7. ^ "Elisabet Ney-Formosa studio". City of Austin Parks and Recreation Dept. Retrieved 2 November 2010.
  8. ^ Walton, Andrea (2005). Women and Philanthropy in Education. Indiana University Press. p. 248. ISBN 978-0-253-34466-3.
  9. ^ a b Fisher, James D. "Elisabet Ney Museum". Handbook of Texas online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 4 November 2010.
  10. ^ Nichols, K. L. "Women's Art at the World's Columbian Fair & Exposition, Chicago 1893". Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  11. ^ Baird, David (2009). Frommer's San Antonio and Austin. Frommers. p. 232. ISBN 978-0-470-43789-6.
  12. ^ Little, Carol Morris, 1996, p75
  13. ^ "Elizabeth Emma Schneider Schnerr". Der Stadt Friedhof. Fredericksburg Genealogical Society. Retrieved 22 April 2014.
  14. ^
  15. ^ Lau, Barbara (July 1981). "The Woman Who Found The Women". The Alcalde: 14.
  16. ^ "Elisabet Ney Emigration 1871–1873". City of Austin Parks and Recreation Dept. Retrieved 31 October 2010.
  17. ^ New England Historic Genealogical Society Staff (1873). The New England Historical and Genealogical Register. New England Historic Genealogical Society Staff. p. 291.
  18. ^ Stephens, Ira Kendrick (1951). The Hermit Philosopher of Liendo. Southern Methodist University Press. p. 136.
  19. ^ "Edmund Montgomery and Elisabet Ney papers". SMU. Retrieved 29 October 2010.
  20. ^ "Liendo Plantation". Archived from the original on 22 October 2010. Retrieved 28 October 2010.
  21. ^ Cohen, Rebecca S (2004). Art Guide Texas: Museums, Art Centers, Alternative Spaces, and Nonprofit Galleries. University of Texas Press. p. 305. ISBN 978-0-292-71230-0.
  22. ^ "Lake Jackson Elementary School". Brazosport ISD. Archived from the original on 23 July 2011. Retrieved 4 November 2010.
  23. ^ Source: Elisabet Ney Museum in Austin, Texas

Additional sourcesEdit

External linksEdit