Audrey Munson

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Audrey Munson
Nude Audrey Munson - Heedless Moths.jpg
BornAudrey Marie Munson
(1891-06-08)June 8, 1891
Rochester, New York, U.S.
DiedFebruary 20, 1996(1996-02-20) (aged 104)
Ogdensburg, New York, U.S.
Resting place
New Haven Cemetery
NationalityAmerican
OccupationArtists' model, actress
Years active1906–1920
 
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Audrey Munson
Nude Audrey Munson - Heedless Moths.jpg
BornAudrey Marie Munson
(1891-06-08)June 8, 1891
Rochester, New York, U.S.
DiedFebruary 20, 1996(1996-02-20) (aged 104)
Ogdensburg, New York, U.S.
Resting place
New Haven Cemetery
NationalityAmerican
OccupationArtists' model, actress
Years active1906–1920

Audrey Marie Munson (June 8, 1891 – February 20, 1996) was an American artist's model and film actress, known variously as "Miss Manhattan," "the Exposition Girl," and "American Venus." She was the model or inspiration for more than fifteen statues in New York City and appeared in four silent films.[1]

Early life[edit]

Audrey Marie Munson was born in Rochester, New York on June 8, 1891.[2] She was not born in Mexico, New York as is sometimes reported although her father was from that town and the family did live there. Her parents, Edgar Munson and Katherine "Kittie" Mahaney, divorced when she was young and Audrey and her mother moved to New York City.

Career[edit]

In 1906, when Munson was 15 years old, she was spotted in the street by photographer Ralph Draper, who in turn introduced her to his friend, sculptor Isidore Konti. Konti persuaded the young woman to model for him. For the next decade, Munson became the model of choice for a host of sculptors and painters in New York City. By 1915, she was so well established that she was chosen by Alexander Stirling Calder as the model of choice for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE) held that year. She posed for three quarters of the sculptures at that event as well as for numerous paintings and murals.

In 1915, probably as a result of her exposure in California at the PPIE, Munson moved to California and entered the nascent film industry, starring in four silent films. The first, Inspiration (1915), the story of a sculptor’s model, was the first time that a woman appeared fully nude on film. The censors were reluctant to ban the film, fearing they would also have to ban Renaissance art. Munson's films were a box office success, while reviews were polarized.[3] Only a single print of one of Munson's films, Purity (1916), has survived.[citation needed]

Munson returned to New York in 1919 and was living with her mother in a boarding house owned by Dr. Walter Wilkins. Wilkins fell in love with Munson and murdered his wife, Julia, so he could be available for marriage.[1] Although Munson and her mother had left New York prior to the murder, the police still wished to question them, resulting in a nationwide hunt for them. They were finally questioned in Toronto, Canada, where they testified that they had moved out because Mrs. Wilkins had requested it. This satisfied the police, but the negative publicity generated by the case effectively ended Munson’s career as a model and actress. Wilkins was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to the electric chair. He hanged himself in his prison cell before the sentence could be carried out.[4]

Later years and death[edit]

By 1920, Munson, unable to find work anywhere, returned with her mother to the town of Mexico, New York and worked for a while selling kitchen utensils door to door.[citation needed] On May 27, 1922, she swallowed a solution of bichloride of mercury in an attempt to take her own life.[5] That was the start of her mental illness and paranoia.[citation needed]

In 1931, a judge ordered the 39-year-old Munson into a psychiatric facility for treatment. She was to remain there for the next 65 years, until her death in 1996 at the age of 104.[1]

Star Maiden (1915) by A. S. Calder
Fountain of the Setting Sun (1915) by Weinman
Civic Fame (1913) by Weinman
Autumn (1915) by Piccirilli
Isidor and Ida Straus Memorial, (1913) Straus Park by Lukeman
Pacific (1915) by Calder

Sculpture[edit]

Herbert Adams

Robert Ingersoll Aitken

Karl Bitter

Alexander Stirling Calder

Daniel Chester French

Sherry Edmundson Fry

Albert Jaegers

Carl Augustus Heber

Isidore Konti

Evelyn Beatrice Longman

Augustus Lukeman

Frederick MacMonnies

Allen Newman

Attilio Piccirilli

Firio Piccirilli

Frederick Ruckstull

Adolph Alexander Weinman

Albert G. Wenzel

Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney

Others sculptures at Panama-Pacific International Exposition

Filmography[edit]

Purity, newspaper advertisement, October 5, 1916

All of the films Munson appeared in were thought to be lost, but a copy of Purity was recovered from an archive in France in 2004.

References[edit]

Notes

  1. ^ a b c Knafo, Saki (December 9, 2007). "The Girl Beneath the Gilding". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-02-04. Ms. Munson was eventually taken to the St. Lawrence State Hospital for the Insane, in nearby Ogdensburg, where she lived from her 40th birthday, on June 8, 1931, until her death in 1996 at age 105 [sic]. 
  2. ^ White, Justin D. "Rediscovering Audrey" (PDF). Andreageyer.info. 
  3. ^ American Venus: The Extraordinary Life of Audrey Munson, Model and Muse. Los Angeles: Balcony Press. 1999. p. 81-82. 
  4. ^ http://keithyorkcity.wordpress.com/2012/10/25/audrey-munson-miss-manhattan-died-in-obscurity-in-1996/
  5. ^ "Model Who Attempted Suicide by Poison Will Recover. Her Physician Says. Says Powerful Influences Persecute Her. Silent About a Telegram Believed From Fiance". New York Times. May 29, 1922. Retrieved 2009-02-04. Audrey Munson, famed as an artist's model also known as a motion picture actress, who attempted to end her life by swallowing a solution of bichloride of mercury at her home in Mexico, Oswego County, yesterday afternoon, was today... 
  6. ^ The sculpture was finished by Konti after Bitter’s untimely death.

Further reading

External links[edit]