Featured: TX Artist ♀
The impulse to arrange the wild variety of the natural world to fit an intellectual symmetry is a fundamental human urge. Beverly Penn’s sculpture speaks to the power of this desire. Her work explores the contradicting need to both idealize and modify the natural environment.
Beverly Penn was born in Baltimore and now lives and works in Austin. She is the recipient of numerous grants and fellowships including a Tiffany Foundation grant, a Rockefeller Foundation residency in Bellagio, Italy; a Connemara Conservancy Artist Grant; grants from the Texas Commission on the Arts and a Fulbright Fellowship in Barcelona, Spain. She has also received nine Texas State University Faculty Research Grants involving research in Mexico, Italy, Spain, and New York. Penn was recently awarded the State of Texas 3D Artist for 2017 by the Texas Legislature and the Texas Commission on the Arts.
Beverly’s sculptures are included in the collections of the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., The Blanton Museum of Art; the Racine Art Museum; the El Paso Museum of Art; and the Monarch Center for Contemporary Art in Washington. She has been commissioned for several Public Art Projects, including Unity in Diversity in Las Cruces, NM; the Community Core Sample Project and the Threshold Project with Steve Wiman in Austin, TX; the Natives Project at Whole Foods in Austin, TX; and the Carte Hilton Hotel in San Diego. She is a Professor in the School of Art & Design at Texas State University. William Campbell Contemporary Art in Fort Worth , Flatbed Press in Austin, and Lisa Sette Gallery in Phoenix represent her work.
Beverly Penn, Maelstrom, 2011; Bronze, 108 x 12 in; Reproduced with permission of the artist.
Elisabet Ney was born in Munster, Westphalia on January 26, 1833. She spent much of her childhood in the studio of her father, a stonecutter and mason. As a teen, against her parents’ wishes, she applied for and was refused admission in the Munich Art Academy. Undaunted, she reapplied and was accepted—on a trial basis. Within four months, she became first woman ever formally accepted in the Academy. Two years later, she graduated magna cum laude and was awarded a scholarship to study in Berlin—as the first woman in the Berlin Academy’s sculpting program.
She was chosen to work alongside master sculptor Christian Rauch. She was introduced to the stimulating intellectual life of the capital, while obtaining increasingly prestigious commissions of thinkers, artists, politicians, and royalty, including the benevolent patronage of King Ludwig II of Bavaria.
Early in her career, Elisabet met a young Scotsman, Edmund Montgomery, a promising young physician and rising philosopher. They were married in 1863 in the Canary Islands. Exclaiming “I belong to no man,” she never took his name, nor did they ever acknowledge their marriage.
When the Franco-Prussian War erupted in 1870, Ney and Montgomery were in Munich, where she enjoyed a flourishing clientele. Because of her outspoken support of democracy and friendship with noted political figures, the Prussian police took interest; they were concerned that, given her unique access to royalty (particularly Ludwig II), she could be passing secrets. A week later a pregnant Ney and Montgomery escaped to the United States.
Ney and Montgomery traveled through the East and Midwest but finally chose Texas as their home—drawn to the lush landscape of an abandoned plantation, Liendo, near present day Hempstead. For more than a decade, Elisabet put her career aside and devoted herself to the daily tasks of running the farm and raising her children, while Montgomery wrote philosophical treatises and practiced medicine. Sadly, their firstborn, Arthur, passed away from diphtheria as a toddler. Their other son, Lorne, grew to be as rebellious as his mother, secretly enrolling in Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders under a pseudonym and accompanying him to Cuba.
In 1892, Elisabet was encouraged to apply for the commission to model Texas heroes Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. She won the commission, and with the money she purchased the land that would become her new creative home in Austin. Ney exclaimed, “I have sculpted the great men of Europe. Now I shall sculpt the wild men of Texas!”
Austin, state capital and home of the new University of Texas, proved to be the ideal place for the artist to establish her studio home and salon, Formosa, where local thinkers and creators would mingle with visiting dignitaries, artists, and performers. Here she spent almost all her time until her death in 1907.
Her final masterpiece, the marble Lady Macbeth, stands in the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American Art. In 1911, four years after her death, the Texas Fine Arts Association was founded at Formosa in her honor. The site has been a museum ever since, and is now a City of Austin Historic Landmark, a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, a Texas State Archeological Landmark, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Formosa is the only Texas property included in the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Historic Artists' Homes and Studios special interest group.
Miss Ney’s work has been exhibited on loan at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.
Elisabet Ney Museum
City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department
representing the Texas Committee in Heavy Metal - Women to Watch 2018