Posts Tagged ‘Customs House Bowling Green’

The fleeting fame of a beautiful artists’ model

June 1, 2009

New York City experienced a major building boom in the early years of the 20th century. The New York Public Library main branch, the Manhattan Municipal Building, and the Customs House at Bowling Green, among other Beaux-Arts jewels, were all built just after the turn of the century.

Audreymunson2And all are decorated with statues based on the face and figure of Audrey Munson, the most sought-after artists’ model at the time.

Audrey came to the city from upstate New York in 1906 with her mother after her parents divorced. She was discovered by a photographer while walking down the street and soon found herself posing for prominent sculptors and achieving the kind of fame not unlike what today’s supermodels experience.

Between 1906 and World War I, Audrey was the inspiration for several public sculptures in Manhattan, among them the woman in the fountain across the street from the Plaza Hotel and the figure on the Isidor Straus Memorial in Straus Mark on 106th Street and Broadway. She also inspired dozens of pieces in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

After trying to break in to movies and theater in the late teens, Audrey’s star began falling. Broke and alone, she moved back to her upstate hometown and sold kitchen utensils. In 1922 she tried to commit suicide and was ordered into St. Lawrence State Hospital for the Insane. 

She lived there until 1996, when she died at the age of 104.


Audrey Munson, inspiration for this statue at Straus Park in Morningside Heights.