Photographer Felix Benedict Herzog — the first to have his photographs accepted as “art” — spotted 17 year-old Audrey Munson window-shopping with her mother on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue. He introduced the teen to his friends and colleagues in the New York art society. Soon, Audrey was an in-demand artist’s model — posing for photographs, paintings and sculptures.
After being persuaded to pose nude, Audrey became the model for numerous sculptures on display throughout the country. For the magnificent Three Graces, on public display in the Grand Ballroom at the Hotel Astor in Times Square, Audrey was the model for all three depicted figures. She was the subject of nearly all of Alexander Stirling Calder’s sculpted figures created for the Panama–Pacific International Exposition held in San Francisco in 1915. Audrey even posed for Charles Dana Gibson as one of his celebrated “Gibson Girls.”
Audrey’s notoriety led to a film career. She became one of the very first actress to appear nude in mainstream film, beginning with the drama Inspiration in 1915. Her films were confounding to censors, forcing them to allow the films under the classification of “art,” lest they begin banning Renaissance artwork, as well.
A prominent Manhattan doctor was taken by Audrey’s beauty and popularity. He murdered his wife in an effort to make himself available to the young actress/model. After his arrest, Audrey denied any sort of relationship with the doctor when questioned by police. The doctor received a death sentence as a result of a trial, but he hanged himself in prison prior to his execution.
Audrey became the subject of a number of publicity stunts, including posing with a bogus $27,500 check to promote her latest film. She also was involved in a nationwide search for “the perfect man” to marry. The search was called off when she announced that she was not ready for matrimony. Publicity tours, acting and modeling soon took a toll on Audrey’s physical and mental heath. She attempted suicide in 1921, but was unsuccessful. However, her mother petitioned to have Audrey committed to an asylum in 1931, citing erratic behavior and mental issues. She was placed in the St. Lawrence State Hospital for the Insane in Ogdensburg, New York, where she was treated for depression and schizophrenia. Audrey remained in the facility for 65 years, until her death in 1996 at the age of 104. She went for decades without a visitor.