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World's First Male Supermodel Lived in Highland Park

Antonio Corsi's image has endured, but his name has not.

Antonio Corsi--the world's first male supermodel and stalwart of Garvanza's turn of the century art scene--dreamed of immortality.

"I prefer to act my parts on a painter's platform.  The actor dies and is forgotten.  I live for hundreds of years--maybe thousands--in the famous paintings in which I appear," Corsi said in 1912.

The irony of Corsi's legend is that, since his death in 1924, it has fallen into relative obscurity.  His dramatic poses and piercing gaze live on through the work that captured him, but his name has not.

Though the inspiration to some of the early 20th Century's great artistic masters like John Singer Sargent, Pierre Auguste Cot and James Earle Fraser and heralded by the Los Angeles Times as "the world's greatest living artist model," he's now barely mentioned among the names of other notable Highland Park residents like Lummis, Judson and Browne.

Born a Gypsy and subject to dramatic financial  losses and gains, Corsi's life ended at the age of 56 in 1924.

A meticulous self-archivist, many of Corsi's artifacts remain and in-tact, and are helping to inform a documentary by filmmaker Jake Gorst--the man determined to grant Corsi the artistic immortality of which he dreamed.

Highland Park-Mount Washington Patch recently spoke to Gorst, who spoke about Corsi and the effort to document his one-of-kind life.

How did you first become interested in Corsi?

My friend Paul Rickert is a photo archivist.  About six years ago he showed a collection of photographs to my sister, Nancy Schindler, who is an art historian. She instantly recognized the costumes and poses.  The two of them brought the archive to my attention and together with my wife Tracey--co-producer and partner in Jonamac Productions--we began the research.  The story we uncovered was incredible, epic.  It had to be a film.


Why isn't Corsi a household name?

Unfortunately Corsi died fairly young, age 56.  His belongings were sold, including his collection of photographs and letters, which were lost for decades. He realized that his name would eventually be forgotten, but commented on a few occasions that he would live for hundreds of years through the paintings and sculptures that he posed for.

Corsi was part of a thriving art scene in Highland Park/Garvanza during the early 20th Century. Does your film focus on that aspect of his life? Will you be doing any filming in the area?

Corsi's time in Highland Park/Garvanza was an important time in his life.  Some of his most enduring works, including the sculpture "End of the Trail" by James Earle Fraser, was produced while Corsi had residence in the neighborhood.  We have already done some filming at Judson Studios, where Corsi posed for many years.  We interviewed David Judson.

Can you tell me a little bit about your own background in film?

As an independent filmmaker I have produced seven feature documentaries. Two of them, "Leisurama" and "Farmboy" have been in national PBS broadcast distribution.  Several of my films have been about mid-20th century architects, and have screened at festivals from Newport Beach to Moscow.

Where are you in the film making process for this documentary ? I understand there is a Kickstarter page to help raise funds?

We have been researching for about six years and are finally ready to get the project underway. Part of pre-production is fundraising.  On Kickstarter.com we are looking for starting funds of $15,000.  The link is can be found here. 

Nancy Lilly March 30, 2012 at 05:15 PM
And we don't know who posed for Michelangelo's "David", and innumerable other works of art ........ the hard-working artist's model has seldom been recognised through the ages. It is wonderful to give Corsi his due - remember also - every time you see a painting, drawing, or sculpture featuring a human figure or face - the piece would not exist without the artist, but neither would it exist without the hard-working, generous (frequently suffering!) model who is equally responsible for the work of art!
Tina Gulotta-Miller March 31, 2012 at 02:27 AM
The link for kickstarter included in the article is broken or not working. I am posting the link to kickstarter account they are receiving donations for the film. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jonamac/corsi-the-worlds-first-male-supermodel-documentary/posts/190575

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