Elizabet Ney

Elizabet Ney McDonald was a prolific sculptor who lived in Texas for much of her career. She was born in Münster, Westphalia, Germany in 1833 and when she was sixteen, she was enrolled in Berlin Academy where she studied under a famous sculptor named Rauch. Her family ancestry was Polish and she was said to be the grand niece of Marshal Michel Ney, the favorite field marshal of Napoleon Bonaparte. Marshal Ney was captured in Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo after which he was sentenced to be executed. Accounts refer to her ancestry as having initially been a detriment to her initial acceptance. However, she became the first (and at least for many years, the only) female to complete studies at the Art Academy of Munich.

She began her long career in Germany and accepted commissions from royalty and other famous individuals such as King Ludwig II of Bavaria, King George V of Hanover and others. In addition, she was commissioned to create works for schools, and other organizations.

She was married to Dr. Edmund Montgomery whom she had met while both were students in Berlin. The couple lived for a while on the island of Madiera, a property of Portugal, located in the Atlantic Ocean west of Morocco. They established a studio for her in the town of Funchal. As earlier noted, she had been a well known artist in Europe before coming to America. In the United States, she first lived in Georgia and was residing there when she was contacted by Governor Oran Milo Roberts in connection with a project for the Texas State Capitol in Austin.

She and Dr. Montgomery purchased the old Liendo plantation near Hempstead, Texas and later established a studio and residence in Austin. During her long career she created many busts and statues. People from Texas who were so honored included statues of Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin, Albert Sydney Johnson and busts of Senator John H. Reagan, Governor W. P. Hardeman, Governor Francis R. Lubbock, Governor Oran Milo Roberts, Governor Lawrence Sullivan Ross and Governor Joseph Sayers.

Image credit: painting by Friedrich Kaulbach, in the public domain

The couple had two children: Arthur Montgomery (1871-1873) and Lorne Ney Montgomery (1872-1913). Arthur is believed to have died from complications of diptheria. He was cremated on their property and his ashes placed in an urn that was later interred with Dr. Montgomery when he was interred on the property. Elizabet died in 1907 after a short illness. Dr. Montgomery died four years later in 1911 and their son Lorne died in 1913 at the age of 40 after a fall. Elizabet and her husband are both buried on Liendo Plantation. Lorne may have initially been buried elsewhere but he was an Army veteran is now buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Their former home, Liendo Plantation, was conveyed to others by the family before the death of Dr. Montgomery. The couple maintained a residence in north central Austin that also contained the artist’s studio. After Miss Ney’s death, a couple acquired the Austin property with the intention of creating an art center in her memory. The City of Austin became the owner in 1941 and has operated it since that time as the Elizabet Ney Museum under the management of the Parks and Recreation Department.

Links:

Elizabet Ney Museum – Austin, Texas

YouTube video by Elizabet Ney Museum

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