Audrey Munson

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Audrey Munson in Heedless Moths 1921

Audrey Munson (June 8, 1891February 20, 1996) was an American model and actress, known variously as "Miss Manhattan," "the Exposition Girl," and "American Venus."



She was born in Rochester, New York. Her parents divorced when she was young and she and her mother moved to New York City. In 1906, when Audrey was fifteen years old, she was spotted in the street by photographer Ralph Draper, who in turn introduced her to his friend, sculptor Isador Konti. Konti persuaded the young woman to model for him and her career was off, along with all of her clothes. 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]. She posed for three quarters of the sculpture at that event as well as for numerous paintings and murals.

Missing image
Audrey Munson posed for this figure Fountain of the Setting Sun by Weinman

In 1916, probably as a result of her exposure in California at the PPIE, Munson moved to California and entered the movies. In all Munson starred in four silent films. The first of these, Inspiration, the story of a sculptor’s model, featured the first time that a woman took off all her clothes on film. Recreating scenes from classic paintings, the censors were reluctant to ban the film fearing they would also have to ban Renaissance art. The films were a box office success, with audiences eager to expand their new found interest in art. The reviews, however, were very polarized. Unfortunately, no prints of any of her movies havesurvived.

1919 found Munson back in NYC, living with her mother in a boarding house owned by Dr. Walter Wilkins. Wilkins fell in love with Audrey and in an attempt to make himself eligible for her, murdered his wife, Julia. Although Audrey and her mother had left NYC prior to the murder the police still wished to question them and this resulted in a nationwide personhunt for them. They finally were 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. Dr. Wilkins was tried and found guilty. Although sentenced to the electric chair he hanged himself in his prison cell before the sentenced could be carried out.

By 1920 Munson, unable to find work anywhere, returned with her mother to Syracuse, New York. Thereafter Munson began showing signs of possible mental unbalance and paranoia and 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 105.

Sculpture for which Audrey Munson posed

Missing image
Fountain of the Setting Sun, Truth, on the base

Herbert Adams

  • Priestess of Culture [PPIE] now in Fine art Museum of SF 1914

Robert Ingersoll Aitken

  • Earth [PPIE, - Court of Universe] 1915
  • PPIE medal 1915
  • Figure on doors of the Greenhut & John W Gates Mausoleums

Karl Bitter

  • Pomona or Abundance, Pulitzer-Plaza Hotel Fountain, NYC 1915
  • The latter finished by Konti after Bitter’s untimely death
  • Venus de Milo (Venus with arms) for Queen Whilhelmina of the Netherlands

Alexander Stirling Calder

  • Star Maiden [PPIE-Court of the Universe] now in Oakland Museum 1915
  • Eastern Hemisphere - Fountain of Energy [PPIE] 1915

Daniel Chester French

  • Melvin Brothers Memorial, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord MA 1908
  • Commerce and Jurisprudence, Federal Building, Cleveland Ohio, 1910
  • Genius of Creation and Eve [PPIE] plaster now at Chesterwood, MA 1915
  • Brooklyn and Manhattan, Brooklyn Museum of Art, NYC
  • Memory, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC
  • Mourning Victory, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC
  • Spirit of Life - Indiana Museum of Art, Indianapolis, IN, 1914 - Newark Art Museum, Newark NJ
  • Evangeline, Longfellow Memorial, Cambridge MA 1912
  • Trask Memorial, Sarasota Springs, NY 1915

  • Wisconsin, figure on top of Capitol dome 1912

Sherry Fry

  • Torch Bearer [PPIE] 1915
  • Muse and Pan [PPIE] 1915
  • Maidenhood Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, Brookgreen Gardens, SC
  • Frick Collection Building. Two pediments, NYC

Albert Jaegers

  • Rain [PPIE] 1915
  • Harvest [PPIE] 1915

Carl [Charles] Heber

  • Figures on tablet outside the Little Theatre
  • Spirit of Commerce, Manhattan Bridge, NYC
Missing image
Star, or Star Maiden (1915) by A S Calder

Isador Konti

  • Mother and Child- private collection of Richard & Lydia Kaeyer
  • Three Muses, - Hudson River Museum
  • Three Graces – lobby of the Hotel Astor, NYC
  • Pomona – Konti finished the work after Karl Bitter was killed
  • Figure within the Column of Progress [PPIE] 1915
  • Widowhood
  • Genius of Immortality Hudson River Museum 1911

Evelyn Beatrice Longman

  • Fountain of Ceres [PPIE-Court of Four Seasons] 1915
  • Consecration [PPIE] now in Wadsworth Athenaeum, Hartford CT 1915

Augustus Lukeman

  • Ida & Isidor Strtauss Memorial [Titanic memorial] NYC

Frederick MacMonnies

  • Niche figure, New York Public Library, NYC

Allen Newman

  • Music of the Waters Fountain, Riverside Drive NYC

Attilio Piccirilli

  • Alone [PPIE] 1915
  • Maine Memorial, Central Park, NYC – figure on top and figure at base
  • Duty and Sacrifice - Firemen’s Memorial, NYC 1913

Firio Piccirilli

  • Fountain of Spring [PPIE] 1915

Frederick W Ruckstuhl [changed to Ruckstull in ]

  • South Carolina Women’s Monument, Columbia South Carolina 1911

Adolph Alexander Weinman

  • Descending Night – Various museums and [PPIE-Fountain of Setting]
  • Civic Fame, figure on top of the Municipal Building, MMW
  • US dime & half-dollar 1916
  • Day and Night figures from Penn Station MMW, 1906
Missing image

A G Wenzel

  • Madam Butterfly
  • Figure over the proscenium in the New Amsterdam Theater, NYC 1913

Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney

  • The Fountain of El Dorado [PPIE] 1915

Others sculptures at PPIE

  • Fountain of Ceres, Court of Four Seasons
  • Fountain of Rising Sun, Court of Universe
  • Pedestal & Friezes, Columns of Human Progress
  • Air, Court of Universe
  • Spirit of Creation, Court of Universe
  • Nature, Feast of Sacrifice, Court of Four Seasons
  • Pylon Groups, Festival Hall
  • Conception, Wonderment, and Contemplation, Palace of the Fine Arts


  • Inspiration [1915] the first known movie in which a woman removed all her clothes
  • Purity [1916]
  • Girl O’Dreams [1917]
  • Heedless Moths [1921]

No prints of any of her movies have survived.


  • Kvaran, Einar Einarsson, Architectural Sculpture of America unpublished manuscript
  • Mullgardt, Louis Christian, The Architecture and Landscape Gardening of the Exposition - A Pictorial Survey of the Most Beautiful of the Compositions of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition Paul Elder and Company, San Francisco 1915
  • Neuhaus, Eugen, The Art of the Exposition - Personal Impressions of the Architecture, Sculpture, Mural Decorations, Color Scheme & Other Aestetic Aspects of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, Paul Elder and Company, San Francisco 1915
  • Popik, Barry, Research
  • Rozas, Diane & Anita Bourne Gottehrer, American Venus, Balcony Press, Los Angeles, 1999

Image sources

The preceding images are all taken from:

  • The Architecture and Landscape Gardening of the Exposition - A Pictorial Survey of the Most Beautiful of the Compositions of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition by Louis Christian Mullgardt
  • The Art of the Exposition - Personal Impressions of the Architecture, Sculpture, Mural Decorations, Color Scheme & Other Aestetic Aspects of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition by Eugen Neuhau

These books were both published by Paul Elder and Company, San Francisco 1915, and all have an Audrey Munsion modeled figure as the main focus.

External links


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