SHE DID IT HER WAY

Born in 1892, when females were not expected to have a career, Waldine Amanda Tauch received encouragement to draw from her father who was a photographer. He allowed her to copy his photographs. In an interview conducted in the early 1980s, Waldine said that the

Waldine Amanda Tauch,
Wikipedia

day before she started school in Schulenberg, someone showed her an ivory bookmarker. She was so taken with the image on the piece that she asked her teacher for one of the large pieces of chalk. Using her father’s pocket knife, she carved the image with such detail that she earned immediate praise. She knew at that time that she intended to be a sculptress. She worked in clay and later she used soap, wood, chalk, and stone.

The family moved to Brady when Waldine was in her teens and some stories claim she caught the attention of ladies in the Tuesday Study Club when she carved butter into a centerpiece for a tea table. The women’s organization raised money for her art education and a friend of the renowned Italian sculptor Pompeo Coppini asked him to accept Tauch as his student.

Waldine said that her mother “wanted me to get married and have children, but my father who was a photographer was so happy someone was going to help me be a sculptress.” Ten days before she graduated high school in 1910, Waldine moved to San Antonio to study with Coppini. When her scholarship funds ran out, he and his wife claimed her as their foster daughter.

Waldine followed Coppini’s naturalistic style in classical sculptor, but she refused to listen to him when he warned that she was too small for the physical rigors needed to follow her dream of creating larger-than-life-sized works.

In 1923 Waldine followed Coppini to New York to help care for his wife and assist in his creation of the Littlefield Fountain for the University of Texas at Austin. Over the next twelve years in New York, she received commissions primarily for portrait busts and for small genre figures produced by Gorham for the mass market.

“The First Shot Fired For Texas Independence” (1836)
Texas Centennial celebration
Battle of Gonzales site.

She returned to San Antonio in 1935 to win the commission inspired by the Texas Centennial celebration (1936) to carve The First Shot Fired for Texas Independence, a life-sized bronze bas-relief set in granite honoring the 1836 Battle of Gonzales.

Waldine had moved from assistant to a partnership when she and Coppini shared the cost of opening a San Antonio studio that grew into an academy dedicated to traditional art styles and techniques. After Coppini’s death, Waldine renamed it the Coppini Academy of Fine Arts in honor of her mentor.

The commissions kept coming, including the eight-foot bronze of General Douglas MacArthur when Tauch was seventy-four years old. Her biographer, Alice Hutson, explained that the skeleton of a figure begins with arranging boards to form the shape and pose. Then pipes are bent within the board frame to form the right curve before the figure is packed with clay. Even clothed figures are first created nude in order to get the muscular structure correct. In an interview, Tauch said that when she was creating the MacArthur figure, she used his army physical record to get his weight and height and that Mrs. MacArthur loaned his uniform. Tauch laughed when she disclosed that a man had written a poem after he came into her studio while she was working on MacArthur. The nude figure wore only his shoes and his cap. The startled gentleman wrote that “nobody in San Antonio knows the man the way Waldine does. She knows him from head to foot.”

“Douglas MacArthur” (1966-68)
Howard Payne University, Brownwood

Biographer Hutson says when Tauch created the heroic-sized bronze Higher Education Reflects Responsibility to the World (1965) she used three male models. Seems she liked the facial contour of one model for the head, but his body was too slender. So, she used the torso of another man. His legs did not look good, so she used a third model whose legs she admired.

“Higher Education Reflects Responsibility to the World” (1965) Trinity University campus

In 1964 Tauch was elected a fellow of the National Sculpture Society of New York City. Five years later the Texas Senate presented Tauch an award for sculpting outstanding Texans, stating that her general patriotism added to the culture of Texas.

“Pippa Passes” (1956) Armstrong-Browning Library, Baylor University campus

Her work is found in front of the Armstrong-Browning Library at Baylor University and at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon. Figures are housed in workshops and at exhibitions, at the MacArthur Memorial Foundation in Norfolk, Virginia, at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, and in the Witte Museum in San Antonio.

Waldine Tauch died in 1986 and is buried in San Antonio’s Sunset Memorial Park in a plot beside Pompeo Coppini and his wife.

Alice Hutson points out that Waldine Tauch created her grand bronze figures in an era before the Women’s Movement before women were allowed to do such things. In that early 1980s interview, Waldine Tauch said “I am happy I had my career. I did what I wanted to do. I enjoyed every minute of it.”

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Elisabet Ney, Sculptor of Renown

Elisabet Ney

Elisabet Ney

In 1873, perhaps the most unusual and nonconforming couple in early Texas—German sculptor Elisabet Ney and her husband Scotch philosopher and scientist Dr. Edmund Montgomery—bought a former slave plantation outside Hempstead.

“Miss Ney,” as she was called even after her marriage to Dr. Montgomery, had always been beautiful, talented, and self-willed. She shocked her family by going to Munich at the age of nineteen to study art. She soon made a name for herself as a sculptor, but she continued to scorn convention by her open affair with young Montgomery. She undertook many important commissions, even moving into a studio at the royal palace in Munich to execute a full-length state of Ludwig II, the mad king who almost financially ruined Bavaria before he was assassinated.

After Miss Ney and Dr. Montgomery married, it is said that her relations with him and her political activities caused the couple to decide that the United States offered a better environment for them. They lived about two years in a German colony in Georgia before moving to Texas and purchasing Liendo Plantation.

The nineteen years she lived at Liendo, she devoted her life to rearing her two sons and trying to help the neighborhood freedmen, but neither venture was very successful. The blacks ridiculed her, one son died, and the story is told that fear of spreading an epidemic prompted Miss Ney to cremate his body in the family fireplace. The other child separated himself from his mother because of her strict rules and the embarrassment he felt over the community talk generated by her life-style and behavior.

Formosa Studio, Austin

Formosa Studio, Austin

Miss Ney received a commission to execute the statues of Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston for the Texas Exhibit at the 1893 World’s Fair. (Both statues stand today in the state capitol in Austin. A copy of Austin is in the U.S. Capitol Hall of Columns and Houston is in the National Statuary Hall.) She moved to Austin, built her studio Formosa, and completed busts of notable Texas politicians and a depiction of Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth (the marble is displayed in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American Art.) She also assembled works of European notables—King Ludwig II of Bavaria, Otto von Bismarck, and Jacob Grimm—that she had created as a young artist in Europe.ney_werk_b

Although she lived at Formosa until her death in 1907, she and Dr. Montgomery continued to visit, and she was buried at Liendo among the oak trees they had planted. Sometime after her death, friends organized the Texas Fine Arts Association, purchased her Austin studio, and developed it into a museum of her work. Dr. Montgomery became a leading local citizen in Hempstead, serving as a county commissioner and helping to found Prairie View College (present Prairie View A&M University).

SHANGHAI PIERCE, A FAIR LIKENESS

It is unusual for a cattleman to come to Texas as a stowaway on a ship.  But that is exactly how 19-year-old Abel Head Pierce made his way to Port Lavaca in 1854.  Discovered when the ship reached the high seas, he earned his passage by mopping the deck and hauling cargo at ports-of-call along the six-month journey.

Soon after landing with only the clothes on his back and seventy-five cents in the pocket of his too-short britches, Pierce met William Bradford Grimes, “the most important cattleman in the region.”  Grimes hired the greenhorn to split rails, apparently thinking the six foot-four giant with the booming Yankee accent needed to learn some lessons about the cattle business.  Immediately Pierce informed his new employer that he wanted to be paid at the end of the year in cows and calves because he planned to go into the cattle business.

Pierce set about his work on the ranch with industry, rising early, and quickly taking on other responsibilities.  In his eagerness to prepare for his future as a cattleman, Pierce hired a blacksmith to forge his own brand and then proudly showed the “AP” to Grimes.  Chris Emmett in his delightful book, Shanghai Pierce: A Fair Likeness, says at the end of the year, when time came for payment, Grimes “cut four old cows and three scrawny calves from the run of range cattle….” As winter set it, the cows died, leaving Pierce with only the calves to show for a year of work.  Grimes bragged that he gave Pierce his “first degree in the cattle business.”

The origin of the moniker “Shanghai,” claims an unclear pedigree.  Glorying in his self-appointed image as a storyteller and entertainer, he relished an audience whether gathered around a campfire among cowboys or in later years among dignitaries.  At times he alluded to school days in Rhode Island when “Shanghai” was a fighting word.  Then he claimed it became a “brand of distinction.”  He said, “I do not have time to fight everybody who wants to fight me.  If I take that much time off I will not have time to take their money away from them.” His nephew said in later years that he “looked so much like the long-necked, long-legged rooster from Shanghai that they named him after his counterpart.”  Chris Emmett tells of another version, usually whispered, “came because he ‘shanghaied’ so many people out of their property.”  He often made fun of his size by claiming he was born in Rhode Island, but the state got too small for him. When he lay down, his head landed in the lap of somebody in Massachusetts and his feet bothered someone in Connecticut.

Shanghai did not leave Grimes’ employ when Grimes cheated him out of his first year’s pay.  Instead, he stayed on to work for the richest cattlemen in South Texas.  Shanghai rounded up mavericks and branded them for Grimes at $1 a head.  He told a fellow cowboy at the end of the year, “I’m damn glad he [Grimes] didn’t ask me whose branding iron I used this year.”  That spelled the beginning of Shanghai Pierce’s cattle acquisitions.

At the end of the Civil War, when some of the men bragged about their accomplishments and tried to tease Shanghai about being the regimental butcher, he boasted:  “By God, Sir; I was all the same as a major general: always in the rear on advance, always in the lead on retreat.”

After the war, when the only profit from beef lay in hides and tallow (the carcasses were fed to the hogs or thrown away), he went into the slaughter business. Finally, Shanghai Pierce became one of the first to drive a herd along the Chisholm Trail to market in Abilene, Kansas.  He quickly proved to be a cunning and able businessman, eventually acquiring up to 35,000 head of cattle and 250,000 south Texas acres.

In 1881, when the railroad came through his land Shanghai dreamed of Pierce’s Station becoming the county seat.  He did not get his wish, but he found another interest.  He wrote the railroad asking that two cars of lumber be deadheaded at Pierce because: “I am pioneering in another matter.  I am trying to introduce religion in the community.”  He ordered pews and a pulpit.  Shanghai proudly showed the new facility to all visitors.  One gentleman asked, “Colonel Pierce, do you belong to that church?”  “Hell, no!” Pierce shouted.  “The church belongs to me.”

Shanghai believed ticks caused fever in cattle and, after touring Europe, he decided Brahman cattle were immune to ticks because “’Bremmers’ sweated and the ticks fell off, and the cattle got fat thereafter.”  After his death in 1900, his estate imported Brahmans from India, beginning a new cattle industry for Texas.

During Shanghai’s European tour, the fine statuary caught his attention, and upon his return he commissioned a marble statue of himself created by sculptor Frank Teich.  They agreed on payment of the $2,250 commission only if Shanghai felt satisfied that the statue represented a fair likeness of himself.  As workmen placed the life-size marble statue atop a ten-foot granite pilaster, mounted on another ten-foot piece of gray granite, Pierce sat with a friend watching the finishing touches.  A small black boy approached the statue and after walking round and round the figure and looking again and again at Shanghai, the boy said, “Mr. Shanghai, that sure does look like you up there.”

“Ugh, by God.” Shanghai snorted.  “I’ll take it.”

Shanghai Pierce died on December 26, 1900, from a cerebral hemorrhage and was buried beneath his massive likeness.

World Renowned Sculptor in Texas

When most people think of Texas in the late 19th Century, they think of cattle drives and stage coaches, one-room schoolhouses and dirt roads.  They think of saloons, not salons.  But there is more to the story.

Long before anyone heard the phrase “women’s libber” Elisabet Ney fit the mold.  Born in Münster, Westphalia, in 1833, she grew up helping her father, a stonecutter who fashioned statuary and gravestones.  At nineteen, certain that she could become a portrait sculptor and “meet the great persons of the world,” she finally convinced her parents to allow her to enroll as the first female to study at the Academy of Arts in Munich.  After graduating at the top of her class, she went on to study in Berlin with Christian Daniel Rauch, Germany’s greatest living sculptor.  Rauch introduced Ney to the artistic and elite in Europe’s social and political world. Her talent and charm led to friendships with Europe’s notables who in turn opened the door for her to meet others.  The reclusive philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer agreed to sit for Ney and was so pleased with his portrait and with their conversations that he wrote a series of letters about “the incomparable Ney”.  She developed friendships with “great persons of the world,” and gained fame for her portraits  such as King Ludwig II of Bavaria, Otto von Bismarck, and Giuseppe Garibaldi.

After a ten-year courtship, she finally agreed to marry Dr. Edmund Montgomery, a Scottish physician who shared her idealist vision of a world of peace and beauty.  For the rest of her life she called Montgomery her “best friend.”  The two dreamers, looking for a utopia, settled for a couple of years in Georgia before moving with their two little boys to Texas in 1872.  They bought Liendo a 1,100-acre former slave plantation about 50 miles northwest of Houston.  Here they planned an idyllic life of Montgomery continuing his scientific research; Ney running the plantation and raising their children in an artistic and scientific environment away from the temptations and influences of contemporary life.  Ney often said she gave up her career to “sculpt flesh and blood.”

Things didn’t work out quite like they planned.  The oldest boy died and over time the other child began resenting his mother’s controls.  Further, “Miss Ney,” as she insisted on being called, shocked her neighbors in the rural community by trying to help the area freedmen change their lifestyle, by refusing to say she was married, by wearing bloomer-like britches, and by riding about the plantation like a man astride her horse.

After twenty years struggling to make a success of the plantation, Miss Ney answered a request to execute statues of Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston for the Texas Exhibit at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.  She moved to Austin, the state’s capital city, and built Formosa, a small, classically styled limestone studio reminiscent of a Greek temple.

Formosa became the social center for culture in Austin.  One friend described the gathering place as a “salon” for serious intellectual conversations, an unusual description in a town better know for its saloons.

The next fifteen years offered the idyllic life for Miss Ney.  She and Dr. Montgomery regularly traveled the 100-miles between Austin and Liendo; he continued his scientific research in the solitude of the plantation; and she pursued her work in the stimulating environment at Formosa.

Her most ideal work, Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth, is displayed in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American Art. The Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin statues stand in the Texas State Capitol and in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the U.S. Capitol.

Upon her death in 1907, she was buried at Liendo where four years later her best friend Dr. Edmund Montgomery was laid beside her.  In 1911 Elisabet Ney’s friends and supporters founded the Texas Fine Arts Association in her honor.  Today, Formosa houses The Ney Museum and 100-piece portrait collection and offers a range of educational programs, lectures, exhibits, and workshops.