Audrey Munson — the model and inspiration for ~ 15 statues in NYC, and the first woman to appear fully nude in silent films.
“What becomes of the artists’ models? I am wondering if many of my readers have not stood before a masterpiece of lovely sculpture or a remarkable painting of a young girl, her very abandonment of draperies accentuating rather than diminishing her modesty and purity, and asked themselves the question, ‘Where is she now, this model who was so beautiful?’” — Audrey Munson (1921)
Brief bio of Audrey Munson:
Born in 1891 in Rochester New York, Audrey Munson moved to NYC when she was 15 yrs. old. She was soon discovered on the street by a street photographer. For the next decade, she modeled for sculptures and painters in NYC. She then moved to California in 1916 where she starred in four silent films.
In 1919, she moved back to New York. She and her mother ended up boarding at the house of a married doctor, who fell in love with her, which his wife had suspected, thus the wife had asked the Munsons to move out, which prompted the doctor to murder his wife.
Unable to find work after that tragic event because of the negative publicity, she moved back to Mexico, New York where she sold kitchen utensils. Two years later — broke, lonely, and depressed, she tried to take her own life unsuccessfully. She was then committed to an insane asylum where she remained until her death in 1996 at the age of 104.
[What fascinated me about this is that I didn’t know there was a Mexico, New York.]
Anyway, Audrey Munson was also believed to have been the [first] Lady of Columbia Pictures logo.
And here are some of the statues and sculptures in NYC based on the face and figure of Audrey Munson:
Pomona, or Abundance, in the Pulitzer Memorial Fountain (1916) by Karl Bitter and Konti at the southeast corner of Central Park, 59th St. and Fifth Ave.
Civic Fame (1913) by Adolph Alexander Weinman atop the Municipal Building in Manhattan.
The figure in the pediment (1914) over the porte-cochère of the Frick Collection by Sherry Edmundson Fry, 70th St. and Fifth Ave.
Memory (1919) by Daniel Chester French at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 86th St. and Fifth Ave.
Mourning Victory (1919) by Daniel Chester French, also at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The figure in the Ida and Isidor Straus Memorial (1915) by Augustus Lukeman at 106th St. and Broadway.
Spirit of Industry (1916) by Carl Augustus Heber at the Manhattan Bridge Plaza in Manhattan.
For Further Reading:
The Girl Beneath the Gilding (NYT)
The fleeting fame of a beautiful artists’ model (Ephemeral New York)
New York City Statues: Audrey Munson
Audrey Munson: Her Brilliant Career (The Blue Lantern)
Upper West Side History: The Rise and Fall of a Model Who Broke the Rules (West Side Rag)
Audrey Munson: model, muse, forgotten, remembered
(top pic: Audrey Munson in Purity 1916)