The history of American art is filled with little-known human stories that I find generally more fascinating than much of the art. Today, I’m thinking about a young artists’ model, Audrey Munson, whose mercurial rise to fame was as unlikely as her despairing descent into the black void of the rest of her life. At the golden dawn of the 20th Century, Audrey Munson, an impoverished pre-teenager, caught the eye of photographer Felix Benedict Herzog as she pressed her face against a department store window and soon thereafter became the most famous artists’ model in American history.
If asked, out of the blue, to name a short list of famous artists, what would our response be? We all could probably name a handful: Michelangelo, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Louise Nevelson, Georgia O’Keeffe, Dale Chihuly, Andy Warhol, maybe that guy who wrapped Central Park – Christo, right? – and Norman Rockwell, for sure. But what about DeKooning’s abstractionist friend, Milt Resnick? Or Pop Art guru Don Nice? Or member of the first “class” of Americans to graduate from the Royal Academy, Johnathan Trumbull? Each of these last three artists were successful on all levels, even though their names rarely leap to anyone’s tongue these days.