Elisabet Ney (1833-1907) was no stranger to castles, so perhaps it should come as no surprise that when she built a house in Austin, it was a castle. Ney, a German-American sculptor, began her career in Germany where she sculpted the likes of Otto von Bismarck, King George V of Hanover, and Ludwig II of Bavaria (who commissioned the famous Neuschwanstein Castle). Ney immigrated to Texas at the age of 39 and in 1893 she built her own castle, a studio in Austin’s Hyde Park neighborhood. She named her studio Formosa.
Formosa was the earliest art studio built in Texas. Today the house is a museum and is home to many of her sculptures, from European leaders to Texans like Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin (both commissioned for the 1891 Chicago World’s Fair). I spent some time in Austin over the holidays and headed to the Elisabet Ney Museum on a rainy afternoon. The building itself is a surprise on its quiet, neighborhood street. What we found inside was an even better surprise: a glimpse into the fascinating life of Elisabet Ney, and a Texan castle that was part history, part art museum.
Sources and Further Reading:
The official site of the Elisabet Ney Museum.
The Elisabet Ney Museum via the Texas State Historical Association.
The Elisabet Ney historical marker.