Formosa: The Elisabet Ney Studio and Museum

Exterior of the Elisabet Ney Studio and Museum

Photo by Carol Highsmith. Collections of the Library of Congress. Public domain.

Quick Facts
304 E. 44th Street, Austin, Texas
Studio of Elisabet Ney, sculptor
National Register of Historic Places
Elisabet Ney was an internationally renowned sculptor. Born in 1833 in Westphalia, Prussia (now Germany), she trained in Munich and Berlin. She completed several sculptures of notable people in the arts, politics, and royalty. When the Franco-Prussian War broke out in 1870, Elisabet and her husband Dr. Edmund Montgomery emigrated to the United States. They had two children in the early 1870s, and Elisabet stopped sculpting in order to raise them. In 1873, the family settled at Liendo Plantation in Texas. 

Elisabet returned to sculpting in 1890 when she was commissioned to create likenesses of Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. In 1892, she purchased 2.5 acres of land in a new development outside Austin, Texas. There, she built herself a studio and outbuildings. She named her studio “Formosa,” which is Portuguese for “beautiful.” She purposefully kept much of her property in its natural state of prairie grasses, wildflowers, and oak trees.

Elisabet built her studio of limestone. It was completed in two phases. The Neo-Classical main studio and reception room were built in 1892 and evoke a Greek temple. The second phase of construction was finished in 1902. It included a large basement, more studio space, a large parlor, and a tower that Elisabet built as a workspace for her husband. The tower gave the studio the air of a European castle.

She lived and worked there until her death in 1907. It has been preserved as the Elisabet Ney Museum, which houses the world’s largest collection of her work, from the 1850s through her death.

The Elisabet Ney Studio and Museum was added to the National Register of Historic Places on November 29, 1972.

Austin Parks & Recreation. “Elisabet Ney Biography.” Austin Parks & Recreation website

Encyclopedia Britannica. “Elisabet Ney: American Sculptor.” Encyclopedia Britannica website

Humanities Texas. “Texas Originals: Elisabet NeyHumanities Texas website

Ritterseiser, Susan. “Finding Aid: Elisabet Ney Papers (AR.J.006).” Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas

Smithsonian American Art Museum. “Artists: Elisabet NeySmithsonian American Art Museum website

Last updated: September 27, 2019