Elisabet Ney Museum to Reopen June 1
Elisabet Ney Museum, May 16, 2013. Photo by Rebecca Bennett.
Elisabet Ney wasn’t just any sculpture artist—she was a forerunner for women in art worldwide, shirking the sexism of her male-dominated era and achieving her dream of becoming a renowned sculpture artist, shining among the brightest sculptors of the nineteenth century.
Even a century after her passing, the Austin community continues to benefit from Elisabet’s artistic vision, which hinged on “the power of art to enrich life and uplift the soul.”
Elisabet was born in Münster, Westphalia on January 26, 1833. Her love for sculpting began as a child while she spent time with her father in his stonecutting studio; this was where she first learned to work with clay. At age 19, she horrified her parents with her plans to study sculpture at the Berlin Academy of Art with Christian Daniel Rauch, who was then considered to be the greatest sculptor in Europe. After Elisabet resorted to a hunger strike, her parents allowed her to move to Munich in 1852; there, she stayed with family friends and studied sculpture with a private tutor.
Though European art schools were strictly male-only, Elisabet eventually won admittance to the Munich Academy of Arts through persistence and dutiful study. This was “the first such invitation ever issued to a woman.” She graduated in 1854 with honors and subsequently earned a scholarship to the Berlin Academy of Art, where she became widely known as “Rauch’s favorite pupil.”
Between 1857 to 1870, Elisabet sculpted portraits of European greats, including King George V of Hannover, King Ludwig II of Bavaria, Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, Arthur Schopenhauer, Jacob Grimm, Josef Joachim, and Giuseppe Garibaldi. She became known as “Miss Ney, the sculptress, friend and confidante to kings, herself a great person.”
Due to the Franco-Prussian war, Elisabet and her husband moved to Austin, Texas in 1892, where Elisabet was soon commissioned by the Texas Legislature to sculpt portraits of Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston, and Albert Sidney Johnston. She built a studio in Hyde Park and called it “Formosa,” which is Portuguese for “beautiful.” Indeed, Elisabet’s love for beauty drew the city to her, since for years her studio was a major social and cultural hub for Austin.
Formosa, now the “Elisabet Ney Museum,” still stands today, displaying Elisabet’s portrait collection for the public. The museum has been closed recently for HVAC repair and roof replacement, but it has announced its grand reopening for June 1.
For more information, visit the museum’s website.
“Elisabet Ney Biography.” Austin Parks & Recreation: Cultural Places, Natural Spaces. City of Austin. Link.
Photography by Rebecca Bennett