All right, so I must admit that this post is less about vegan and more about women. But there is a vegan connection that I will explain below! This museum is one of my favorite places in Austin because it combines some of my most beloved things all in one place: history, art, nature, and independent women. It’s the original studio that Elisabet Ney designed herself in 1892 and named Formosa (Portuguese for “beautiful island”), after her previous home in Madeira.
Ney was born in Germany in 1833. She was the first female sculpture student at the all-male Munich Academy of Art (you go girl). After graduating she moved to Berlin and sculpted portraits for several famous Europeans, including Jacob Grimm (of the Grimm Brothers), philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, Italian military leader Giuseppe Garibaldi, King George V of Hanover, and Ludwig II of Bavaria.
She married Scottish medical student Edmund Montgomery, however, she refused to take his name and often denied even being married (!). She and Edmund immigrated to the United States and eventually settled down in Texas. They purchased a plantation near Houston, but Elisabet decided to build her own studio in Austin, where she lived & worked and occasionally went back to the plantation to see her husband. She had two sons, one whom died very young, and another who is rumored to have joined Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough-riders.
The spiral staircase you see above leads to a secret study that she built especially for her husband, so he would have a place to work when he visited her. Sweet, right? A secret study sounds awesome! It’s inside this tower:
The grounds of the museum have been landscaped to represent the natural wildlife that would have been thriving at the time Ney actually lived at Formosa. There are all sorts of beautiful flowers, including sunflowers – my favorite! Behind the studio is a grassy area with a stream and bridge. It’s a really peaceful place to walk around and think.
Ney’s sculptures can be see in the Texas State Capitol, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the National Statuary Hall Collection in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., and of course at the Elisabet Ney Museum. I love Ney because she wore pants and rode horses astride just like the men, at a time when that was not socially acceptable. She slept in a hammock on the roof of her studio, didn’t fuss over housework, and never let anybody stop her from doing what she wanted because she was a woman.
Elisabet Ney died in 1907 and is buried next to her husband at their plantation near Houston, which I’ve visited as well. It’s a beautiful Civil War era mansion on a big piece of shady land that is open to visitors on certain days. Check out Liendo Plantation for more information.
As I’m sure you can tell, I love this museum and the woman it’s dedicated to. She was brave, independent, unique, and opinionated. She loved Texas and wanted to provide the next generation with opportunities to study the arts and explore their creativity.
Another great thing about the Elisabet Ney Museum is that it’s located in one of my favorite parts of Austin, the Hyde Park district, which is very historic in & of itself. Right around the corner is Quack’s Bakery, which has the most delicious vegan chocolate cake balls EVER.
Yummmm…. So see, this post is semi-vegan related 🙂
If you live in Austin or find yourself visiting this awesome/weird city, I suggest you check out the Elisabet Ney Museum. It’s free – yay! They’re open Wed-Sun from noon-5 pm. The address is 304 E. 44th Street. You can get more information on the museum website.
Sursum is the Latin word for “upwards.” ♥♥♥