Tucked away in the trees along Waller Creek in the historic Hyde Park neighborhood, this striking castle-like structure served as a studio and reception room for artist and iconoclast Elisabet Ney (1833-1907). Trained in the art schools of Munich and Berlin, she became confidante to King Ludwig II of Bavaria, for whom she created classically styled Romantic sculptures. After emigrating to the U.S. in the 1860s, she took a similarly exalted role in the art society of Austin, where she was commissioned to create the monumental statues of Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston that now stand at the Texas State Capitol. William Jennings Bryan, Enrico Caruso, and four Texas governors were among the many visitors to Ney’s studio, which she called Formosa.
Among the works showcased here today are a variety of working studies, including an enormous plaster cast of Lady Macbeth (the final marble is on display at the Smithsonian), and several marble busts. The museum also holds Ney’s collection of studio portraits of European dignitaries, including Schopenhauer, Garibaldi, and Bismarck, which she retrieved from Germany in 1902. Tip: Climb the little tower above the museum for a view above the treetops. Half of the grounds of the 2 1/2-acre site re-create the prairie landscape that existed when Ney first arrived on the property.