Modeling Fame : a Closer Look at the Work of Elisabet Ney



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Elisabet Ney (1833-1907) used cold clay and courage to chisel into the masculine world of sculpture in two disparate art worlds, thus challenging gender and geographical barriers. Ney, the außergewöhnlich German-American sculptor, provides the perfect foil with which to investigate both German and American artistic endeavors in the long-nineteenth century. The significance of this study includes the consideration of nationalism, feminism, and marketing through the lens of aesthetic analysis. While Elisabet Ney’s life is an interesting topic itself, the interdisciplinary analysis applied to her work allows significant discussion of other issues relevant to the visual culture of the long-nineteenth century. The initial chapter introduces Ney as a student and young artist working in Germany, as well as prepares the palette by divesting the “sculptress phenomenon” occurring in nineteenth century in Europe and the United States. Subsequent chapters examine Ney’s engagement with different sculptural types: medallions, portrait busts, monumental figures, and narrative works or “veiled self-portraits.” These chapters are accompanied by a brief history of their respective category of sculpture, with the goal of explicating Ney’s oeuvre within the larger world of art history. Individual case studies serve as synecdoches of visual culture and allow for branching interdisciplinary analyses. The dissertation concludes with a reappraisal of the artist’s work through comparison with her contemporaries in the art scenes in which she participated during this period of rapid modernization. In sum, this dissertation contextualizes in depth the work of Elisabet Ney from various perspectives in order to aid current art scholars in appreciating the artist’s significance and contributions.



Ney, Elisabet, -- 1833-1907, Sculpture, Sculpture, American, Sculpture, German, Sculpture, Neoclassical, Feminism in art