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During Elisabet's time in Berlin, she not only learned her craft but also learned to think intelligently and independently, choosing from a rich array of ideas, philosophies, and experiences offered through her personal acquaintance with "great persons" and the exciting - and challenging - intellectual and artistic millieu of mid-nineteenth century Germany.
In 1857, Elisabet was twenty-four and well on her way to achieving the seemingly impossible goals that she had set for herself in Münster a brief five years earlier. She was firmly established as one of Christian Daniel Rauch's most promising young students, and her work was receiving international attention. As an artist, her attention to sculptural detail and to the importance of capturing the essential personality or spirit of her subjects required extended sittings which resulted in her getting to know rather than simply meet the "great persons" she was destined to portray over the next thirteen years. These personages were a veritable Who's Who of nineteenth-century Europe: philosophers, statesmen, scientists, diplomats, and artists, as well as two kings.
Elisabet Ney benefited from her work with these notable figures in two important ways. In response to her talent, charm and genuine interest, most of them became her friends and advanced her personal, social and artistic fortunes through their influence. More importantly, however, there were those who would inspire the impressionable young Elisabet in her idealistic explorations. Others would provide her with valuable insights into the political and social realities of the turbulent times in which she lived.
Elisabet thus achieved considerably more than she had originally set out to achieve at the age of nineteen. The years 1857 to 1870 would see the talented, young, eager Elisabet mature into the elegant, poised and confident "Miss Ney, the sculptress," friend and confidante to kings, herself a "great person."
Soon after completing a celebrated portrait of philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer that would be displayed in the Paris Salon of 1861, Elisabet was summoned to Hanover for her first royal commission of a portrait of King George V of Hannover. The King was so pleased with her work that he commissioned a portrait of Josef Joachim, his court concert master and violinist, as well as a portrait of Elisabet by court painter Friedrich Kaulbach that hangs today Niedersachsisches Landesmuseum Hannover. Elisabet and Joachim established an abiding friendship that would continue throughout their lives.
The process of sculpting is very intimate, and Ney often developed personal relationships with her patrons. Her friendships with men like Giuseppe Garibaldi, Arthur Schopenhauer, and King Ludwig II ultimately impacted her own beliefs and ideas (as well as vice versa).
Marriage to Dr. Edmund Montgomery
During the time Elisabet Ney was developing professionally, intellectually and socially in Munich and Berlin, her private life was taking important shape as well. In 1853, Elisabet met Edmund Montgomery, a young Scotsman, who was a medical student in “beautiful Heidelberg” as they were always to refer to it. As she tells it, she was instantly attracted to Edmund, “tall, with long, blond curls falling to his broad shoulders.” He seemed to her romantic soul “like a hero just stepped out of the pages of some splendid book!” Edmund, in turn, recognized in Elisabet appropriately admirable Scottish qualities, “determined, gifted . . . eager to learn.”
Ten years after their meeting in “beautiful Heidelberg,” Elisabet joined Edmund on the island of Madeira where he had established a medical practice. On November 7, 1863, the British Consul duly performed and recorded the marriage of “Edmund Montgomery age 28, bachelor and Doctor of Medicine and Elisabet Ney, age 28, spinster...”
In 1871, events unfolded that forced Elisabet and Edmund out of Europe. War was underway and King Ludwig II suspected that Ney had been involved in a plot to force him into the war. Ney’s discovery that she was with child and her husband’s failing health also prompted their decision to leave Europe and immigrate to the United States.
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