THIS IS an illustrated account of the tragic life of Audrey Munson (1891-1996) who modeled for leading American sculptors (Daniel Chester French, A. Sterling Calder, Sherry Fry and others) in the so-called “guilded age” of art. She posed for both the head and tail of the 1916 U.S. dime (the Mercury dime); as well as for statues that stand at the front of the New York Public Library and the Brooklyn Museum of Art, on the fountain outside of the Plaza Hotel, in the pediments at the entrance to the Frick Collection, and (as the figure of Evangeline) at the Longfellow Memorial in Massachusetts.

When the Beaux Arts tradition in sculpture was quashed by the rise of Modernism, she tried to survive by performing in films about artists’ models, resulting in a great scandal because she appeared on the screen totally nude. In 1919, when rumored to have been involved in the murder of her landlord’s wife (she wasn't), she collapsed emotionally (described back then as “mental blight”), was ostracized as “Crazy Audrey,” and, after a quest for a husband that failed, attempted suicide.

At age 39, she was committed to an asylum, where she remained in obscurity until her recent death at age 105. This book is a belated but earnest attempt to restore her dignity.    



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American Venus: The Extraordinary Life of Audrey Munson, Model and Muse by Diane Rozas and Anita Bourne Gottehrer. Los Angeles: Balcony Press, 1999.ISBN 1890449040.

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