Wessex Women

Elisabeth Muntz, pioneering stone sculptor

Objects from: Dorset Museum

Elisabeth Muntz was a Canadian-born sculptor who moved to  Dorset in the 1920s. She is famous for her versatile work in Portland and Purbeck stone, which she sourced from local quarries.  

A versatile craftswoman

Canadian-born sculptor Elisabeth Muntz (1894-1977),  studied at the Ontario College of Art and the Académie de la Grande Chaumière and Bourdelle in Paris. 

Elisabeth was mainly known for her versatile work in Portland and Purbeck stone, sourced from local quarries. She also sculpted in wood and bronze, and painted. 

In 1950, Elisabeth became the first woman to be appointed as Freeman of the Ancient Order of Purbeck Marblers and Stonecutters.

An artists' community in Dorset

In the 1920s, Elisabeth met the artist and sculptor, Stephen Tomlin. A member of the Bloomsbury Set, he introduced her to a community of writers and artists who were living and working in the village of Chaldon Herring, Dorset.

Elisabeth bought a cottage there and built a studio in the garden. There she produced sculptures for exhibitions in London and abroad.

Travels with pony and dog!

Locals were said to be familiar with the sight of Elisabeth, dressed in a duffel coat and boots, riding the coast path on her pony with her spaniel dog beside them. The rides weren’t simply for pleasure – but to visit the local quarries to source stone for her works. 

Inspiration for young people

During her time at Apple Tree Cottage, Elisabeth’s studio doubled as a successful summer school for  young people. There they learned about painting, pottery and sculpture.  

Although she didn’t have children of her own, Elisabeth had a lasting affection for children, who were often the inspiration for her drawings, paintings and sculptures. 

Muntz collection goes to museum

Elisabeth Muntz died in Chaldon Herring in March 1977, aged 82. Her sister inherited her enormous collection of sketches, drawings, paintings, notes, photographs, manuscripts and family memorabilia. The collection was later bequeathed to Dorset County Museum.

Stone carvings on tour

The objects chosen to tell the story of Elisabeth Muntz are three carvings made of Purbeck stone. They depict a face, some leaves and a hand. 

Elisabeth Muntz at work
Wooden sculpture of a child holding a dove.
Sculpture of a child holding a dove by Elisabeth Muntz.
Three stone carvings by Elisabeth Muntz, a face, a hand and a leaf.
Stone sculptures by Elisabeth Muntz.