Audrey Munson, 1891-1996

  • Audrey-Munson-WWP

Woman Category: Arts, Fashion & Beauty, and Theater & CinemaWoman Tags: Actress, Author, Model, and NYC Women

  • HerStory

    Considered the first American supermodel, first famous American nude artists’ model and film star.

    Audrey Marie Munson started her career as a Broadway chorus girl, after moving with her divorced mother to New York City. Her life took a turn at the age of 17, while window-shopping on Fifth Avenue, the teenager was spotted by a photographer who offered her to pose for him. He introduced Audrey to his artists friends, and she soon became a wanted model, often in the nude, for many famous male artists and sculptors.
    Audrey Munson has posed for iconic sculptures on government buildings and public monuments, many of the statues still in place in the streets of New York city – winning her the title “Miss Manhattan.” Other titles included “The American Venus,” “America’s First Supermodel,” “The Queen of the Artists’ Studios,” and “Panama–Pacific Girl” for modeling for a majority of the carvings at the International Exposition in San Francisco.
    Munson took pride in her work, claiming nudity as an expression of female freedom, writing: “Clothes ruined us. They do harm to our bodies and worse to our soul.” She moved to California and shifted her career towards the film industry. She starred in four silent films and is considered the first actress to appear fully nude in an American feature film. She played a sculptor’s model in her first film, “Inspiration” (1915), which is nowhere to be found today. Audrey Munson was also a writer, publishing a series of 20 short stories about her life in the Sunday Magazine.
    She and her mother became associated with a famous murder case – when their landlord killed his wife, supposedly because he was in love with Audrey. Even though she had no part in the crime, it has affected her reputation negatively. At 40, she was admitted by her mother to a psychiatric institution for depression and schizophrenia. She lived there for the remaining 60 years of her life, until her death at the age of 104. Her gravestone, which was added 20 years after her death, features a small sculpture of an angel figure, dressed.

    “I detest false modesty. For my part I see nothing shocking in our unclothed bodies”

    “I detest false modesty. For my part I see nothing shocking in our unclothed bodies”

    More Interesting Anecdotes:

    • She is said to have been haunted by a prophecy from a fortune-teller – predicting that her beauty will make her famous and later it will curse her.
    • She has inspired the 25-foot-tall “Civic Fame” by the Municipal Building in Lower Manhattan, the largest statue of a woman in town after Lady Liberty.
    • She refused to wear high heels and corsets, choosing comfortable clothes.
    • In 2009, a play about her life was directed by Elaine Kuracina.
    • The only one of her films to be found today is Purity (1916) which was discovered in 1993 in a porn collection in France.


  • More About Her Legacy
    Creations By and About Her:

    * Her biography

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  • One of Her Landmarks

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  • Woman Tags: Actress, Author, Model, NYC Women

    America's First Supermodel: Audrey Munson

    One woman's face is all over New York, although you've probably never heard of her. This was written with Amor Sciendi: go check it out!

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    Thanks also to Vivienne Gucwa for holding the camera:

  • Photo credit - Library of Congress

  • Citations and Additional References:
    IMDB page.
    Find a Grave website.
    An article on Vogue website.