Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library at the Alamo

A Guide to the Elisabet Ney Letters, 1894 and 1897

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Ney, Elisabet, 1833-1907
Title: Elisabet Ney Letters
Dates: 1894 and 1897
Creator Abstract: Born in the Prussian province of Westphalia, Elisabet Ney (1833-1907) was one of the first professional sculptors in Texas.
Content Abstract: The collection contains two letters from Elisabet Ney to friend and supporter Margaret Lea Houston Williams (1848-1906), a daughter of Sam Houston.
Identification: Doc 15066
Extent: 2 items (1 folder)
Language: Materials are in English.
Repository: Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library at the Alamo, San Antonio, Texas

Biographical Note

From the Handbook of Texas Online:

Franzisca Bernadina Wilhelmina Elisabeth Ney, one of the first professional sculptors in Texas, was born in M√ľnster, Westphalia, on 1833 January 26 to Johann Adam and Anna Elizabeth (Wernze) Ney, a Catholic stonecarver and his wife. Ney enrolled at the Munich Academy of Art in 1852 and, after her graduation two years later, moved to Berlin, where she studied with Christian Daniel Rauch, one of the foremost sculptors in Europe in the mid-nineteenth century. Under Rauch's tutelage, Ney developed a classical style in the German tradition, with a tendency toward realism and a faithfulness to accurate scale. Through Rauch, she also became acquainted with Berlin's artistic and intellectual elite and sculpted her first works, among them portraits of such luminaries as Jacob Grimm and Alexander von Humboldt. During the late 1850s and 1860s Ney led a peripatetic life, traveling around Europe to complete portraits of intellectual and political leaders. Among her best-known works from this period are portrait busts of Arthur Schopenhauer, Giuseppi Garibaldi, and Otto von Bismarck and a full-length statue of King Ludwig II of Bavaria.

On 1863 November 7 in Madeira, Ney married Edmund D. Montgomery, a Scottish physician and scientist. They left Europe in 1871 and settled briefly in Thomasville, Georgia, where their two sons were born. In 1872 Ney moved with her family to Texas and purchased Liendo Plantation in Waller County, where Ney, for much of the next twenty years, managed the plantation while Montgomery busied himself with his scientific work. After visiting Austin at the invitation of Governor Oran M. Roberts in the 1880s, Ney decided to resume her artistic career. She built a studio, called Formosa (now the Elisabet Ney Museum), in the Hyde Park area of Austin in 1892 and began lobbying notable citizens and the state legislature for commissions. During the next fifteen years she completed a number of portrait busts as well as statues of Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston, now in the state Capitol, and a memorial to Albert Sidney Johnston, in the State Cemetery. Copies of the Austin and Houston statues are also in the United States Capitol. One of her few ideal pieces, a depiction of Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth, was also a major project during her Austin years; the marble is now displayed in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American Art. In addition to her sculpting, Ney took an active role in artistic and civic activities in Austin, where she died on 1907 June 29. Four years later a number of her supporters founded the Texas Fine Arts Association in her honor.


Cutrer, Emily F. "Elisabet Ney." Handbook of Texas Online. http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fne26.

Cutrer, Emily Fourmy. The Art of the Woman: The Life and Work of Elisabet Ney. Women in the West, eds. Sandra L. Myres, Elliott West, and Julie Roy Jeffrey. Lincoln, Nebraska, and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1988.

Elisabet Ney biographical file, Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library, San Antonio, Texas.

Scope and Content Note

The collection contains two letters from Elisabet Ney to friend and supporter Margaret Lea Houston Williams (1848-1906), a daughter of Sam Houston. In the first letter, dated 1894 December 21, Ney describes recent travels and her care of a daguerreotype loaned by Williams, presumably of her father. Ney also writes about her plaster statues of Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin, specifically attempts to retrieve the former, which had been displayed at the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago and seized due to an outstanding debt owed by the organizers of the Texas pavilion. The Association of the Texas Academy of the Liberal Arts, which Ney established and headed as president, is also mentioned. Ney wrote the second letter, dated 1897 May 16, soon after her return from thirteen months in Europe. In it she describes efforts to generate legislative support and funds for cutting the Houston and Austin statues in marble for placement in the Texas and U.S. capitols.


Access Restrictions

No restrictions. The collection is open for research.

Usage Restrictions

Please be advised that the library does not hold the copyright to most of the material in its archival collections. It is the responsibility of the researcher to secure those rights when needed. Permission to reproduce does not constitute permission to publish. The researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming to the laws of copyright, literary property rights, and libel.

Index Terms

Personal Names
Ney, Elisabet, 1833-1907.
Williams, Margaret Lea Houston, 1848-1906.
Austin, Stephen F. (Stephen Fuller), 1793-1836--Statues.
Houston, Sam, 1793-1863--Statues.
Association of the Texas Academy of the Liberal Arts.
Daughters of the Republic of Texas.
Sculptors, American--Texas.
Women sculptors--Texas.
Personal papers.

Related Material

Elisabet Ney Papers (AR.J.006). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.

Edmund Montgomery and Elisabet Ney Papers, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University.

Elisabet Ney Papers, 1859-1939, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

Williams-Houston Papers, MC143, San Jacinto Museum of History, Houston, Texas.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Elisabet Ney Letters, 1894 and 1897, Doc 15066, Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library, San Antonio, Texas.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Madge Thornall Roberts, 2012 April.

Processing Information

Processed by Caitlin Donnelly, 2012 June.

Finding aid encoded by Caitlin Donnelly, 2012 June.

Alternate Form of Material

Digital reproductions of the letters are available electronically through the University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries, http://digital.utsa.edu/cdm.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Elisabet Ney Letters, 1894 and 1897

1 Elisabet Ney, Liendo Plantation, Texas, to Margaret Lea Houston Williams, Independence, Texas, 1894 December 21.
Elisabet Ney, Hyde Park, Austin, Texas, to Margaret Lea Houston Williams, Independence, Texas, 1897 May 16.