The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 92, July 1988 - April, 1989

"The Hardy, Stalwart Son of Texas": Art and
Mythology at the Capitol
EMILY FOURMY CUTRER*
WHEN THE NEW TEXAS CAPITOL WAS LITTLE MORE THAN A GLEAM IN
the eye of its planners, discussion of its artistic embellishment
had already commenced. Sometime during late 1881 or early 1882
Governor Oran M. Roberts summoned the German-American sculptor
Elisabet Ney to Austin from her home in Waller County to meet with
the Capitol Board and to make suggestions about the building's artistic
program. A letter the sculptor later wrote to Roberts reveals the rather
elaborate ideas the two shared. Both apparently had endorsed a plan
calling for sculptural decoration on the building's interior and exterior.
Four statues were to stand in the south vestibule just behind the main
entrance; busts would ring the perimeter of the rotunda; and an elabo-
rate frieze would ornament the main pediment above the Capitol's en-
trance. More significant than their ideas about medium and placement
were the content and themes of their proposed art. In her letter, Ney
called for statues and portrait busts "consecrated to the memory" of
men who contributed "to the glory and elevation of the state," and she
described the allegorical frieze as one "with representations of Advanc-
ing civilization triumphantly expelling barbarism: Indians, Buffaloes
ceding the ground to the plow and domestique animals, and states-
manship, commerce, [and] science growing out of the context."
With these prescriptions, the sculptor outlined an artistic program
that undoubtedly would have struck a responsive chord not only with
the Capitol Board, but also with much of its prospective Texas audi-
ence. It called for an art that was didactic as well as one that provided
reinforcement for the culture's dominant ideologies of individualism,
*Emily Fourmy Cutrer, assistant professor of American studies at the Umniversity of ITexas at
Austin, is the author of The Art of the Woman The Lfe and Work of Elsabet Ney (Lincoln- Umniver-
sity of Nebraska Press, 1988).
SEhlisabet Ney to Oran Roberts, Mar. i i, 1882, Oran Roberts Papers (Eugene C. Barker
Texas History C(enter, Umniversity of lTexas at Austin, cited hereafter as BTI C)

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 92, July 1988 - April, 1989. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101212/. Accessed November 22, 2014.