The Art of the Woman: The Life and Work of Elisabet Ney

The Art of the Woman: The Life and Work of Elisabet Ney

The Art of the Woman: The Life and Work of Elisabet Ney

The Art of the Woman: The Life and Work of Elisabet Ney

Excerpt

Elisabet Ney belongs to Texas legend. Both during her lifetime and afterward, her name has given rise to all kinds of stories, some completely false, others based in truth, that have been perpetuated by word of mouth and in print. Although Ney herself was well aware of the "medley of gossiping, garbled tales" that circulated about her while she was living, she undoubtedly would have been stunned by the number and variety of stories that have appeared since her death in 1907. During the past eight decades, the sculptor's life has inspired at least three biographical novels, four one-woman plays, and countless articles in anthologies, newspapers, and magazines. The public's fascination with this German-American woman stems in large part from the persona one recent book attributes to her. "Elisabet Ney," as Charlotte Streiffer Rubinstein introduces her in American Women Artists, "was an exotic and romantic figure in the history of American sculpture."1

As a brief sketch of her life reveals, she was also an exotic and romantic figure in European and Texas society. Born in Westphalia in 1833, she lived through the turbulent period of Germany's unification and, as a professional sculptor, knew many of that country's most important political and intellectual leaders. In 1871 she left Europe in a seemingly abrupt fashion and came to America. Rather than making her home among other artists and intellectuals in the Northeast she settled in the still geographically and culturally remote state of Texas. There she lived an isolated existence for nearly twenty years until 1892, when she emerged from the hinterlands and established a studio in Austin, the state's capital, and resumed a career that lasted until her death.

During her years in America, Ney was a very visible personality. She dressed and styled her hair without regard to current fashion. Her homes . . .

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