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Tragic Muse: The Life of Audrey Munson

PODCAST By the time Audrey Munson turned 25 years old, she had became a muse for some of the most famous artists in America, the busiest artist’s model of her day.

She was such a fixture of the Greenwich Village art world in the early 20th century that she was called the Venus of Washington Square, although by 1913 the press had given her a grander nickname — Miss Manhattan.

Her face and figure adorned public sculpture and museum masterpieces. And they do to this day. 

But just a few years after working with these great artists, Audrey Munson disappeared from the New York art world, caught up in a murder scandal that would unfairly ruin her reputation. 

And on her 40th birthday she would be locked away forever.

FEATURING: Daniel Chester French, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, Richard Morris Hunt, Isadore Konti and many Beaux-Arts greats.

Listen Now – Tragic Muse


The Maine Monument, featuring Audrey in two places.

The goddess Pomona atop the Pulitzer Fountain

Courtesy PortableNYCTours/Wikimedia Commons

The Brooklyn side of the Manhattan Bridge used to be much more glamorous with two statues created by Daniel Chester French (and both based on Audrey Munson) on either side of the approach.

Brooklyn Museum

The allegorical figure of Brooklyn at the Brooklyn Museum

Photo by Daderot/Wikimedia Commons

The Straus Memorial with a contemplative muse sculpture. Seen here on the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.

Photo by Nightscream/Wikimedia Commons

Civic Fame atop the Manhattan Municipal Building.

Photo by Stig Nygaard/Wikimedia Commons

Audrey at the pinnacle of her fame.

Photographer Arnold Genthe, photo taken March 1915

Alexander Stirling Calder puts the finishing touches on a ‘star maiden’ for the San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exposition.

The Palace of Fine Arts is the most famous remnant of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition still standing.

Rhododendrites/Wikimedia Commons

Publicity still from the 1915 film Inspiration (later The Perfect Model).

Another publicity photo, this time for the film Purity.

An illustration from her newspaper column Queen of the Artist’s Studio with Munson rescuing a young woman from an unfortunate scene of vice.

Audrey was almost completely forgotten about after 1931 and most of the references to her at all are in the context of the Wilkins murder case.

Newsday (Courtesy Newspaper.com)

FURTHER LISTENING

After you’ve listened to this show on the life of Audrey Munson, dive back into the back catalog and listen to these shows with similar themes:


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5 replies on “Tragic Muse: The Life of Audrey Munson”

Ah! You got around to Audrey Munson and didn’t tell me!…Sam Roberts will do her “overlooked” NY Times obituary in early 2022…The “overlooked” obituary of Hettie Anderson was finally published this month, and Hettie was credited with “Civic Fame.” I asked the Times what this was based on. There is only one dubious cite, but Audrey was often credited–even in the NY Times. The Times made no correction or explanation!

Great show Greg! Going back to check out #188. Don’t agree disparity between male and female statues in NY is a problem though. Maybe an issue to be rectified, but not a problem.
Thanks

I was just directed to this podcast. Loved the Audrey Munson story. I also listened to the Ice Wars. My husband’s grandfather was in the ice business at the turn of the century in NY, so found it very interesting.

Wonderful storytelling. Audrey was indeed a tragic muse. Her life has so many parallels with that of Camille Claudel, including decades spent in an asylum and death in obscurity. Check out my chapter: ‘Under the spell of an ardent rival: Camille Claudel and Augusta Rodin’ in the book Creativity and Madness: Psychological Studies of Art and Artists Vol.3 June 2021

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