When critics pointed out the differences between the two statues (Austin is considerably shorter than the towering, robust Houston), Ney reminded them that she had merely reproduced their likenesses. “Any dissatisfaction should be taken up with God,” she quipped.
Nineteen-year-old Ney went on a hunger strike until her parents relented. The administrators at the prestigious Munich Academy of Art were not so easily persuaded. However, Ney’s skill and determination soon earned her admittance, making her the first woman to study sculpture at the academy. Her talent, beauty, and charm earned her commissions from famous men of the day, including King Ludwig II of Bavaria, Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck, and fairytale collector Jacob Grim.
In 1863, Elizabet married Edmund Montgomery, a Scottish medical student studying in Heidelburg. Independent as ever, Ney kept her maiden name and introduced her husband as “my friend, Mr. Montgomery.” The couple eventually emigrated to the United States, settling in Texas in 1872. The eccentric Miss Ney raised eyebrows from the moment she arrived in the Lone Star State. Her clothing—a black Prince Albert frock coat, white britches and knee-high boots—were considered unfeminine. Because she did not share her husband’s last name, many assumed the couple were “living in sin.”
She’d been living in Texas for twenty years when the committee women of the World’s Fair Exhibit Association approached her in 1891 with a proposal to create statues of Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin for the Chicago World’s Fair. It was at this point that Ney decided she needed a studio. She purchased land in Austin’s Hyde Park district and began the task of building one that resembled a miniature Greek temple.
Even before it was complete, Ney started working on the statues. She collected photographs and engravings of the two famous Texans and again raised eyebrows when she began her quest for a human skeleton too. Sam Houston soon made its way to Chicago for display, but Ney did not complete Stephen F. Austin in time for the World’s Fair and was keenly disappointed. However, in 1897, the Daughters of the Republic of Texas requested a marble copy of Stephen F. Austin for the National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C. The Texas state legislature appropriated funds for a reproduction of Sam Houston for Statuary Hall and reproductions for the state capital. These were unveiled in the rotunda on Jan 19, 1903, with approximately three thousand people in attendance, including Houston’s seven-year-old grandson, Sam Houston Hearne.
Ney died of a heart attack in 1907 at the age of 74. Today, her Austin studio is the Elizabet Ney Museum, dedicated to preserving her legacy.
To continue our Birthday Bash, this post's participants will be entered in a drawing for a Texas Historical Romance by Crystal L Barnes (winner's choice of title from the list below --ebook or paperback).