Gerda Wegener

"The Lady Gaga of the 1920s"


  • Born as Gerda Marie Fredrikke Gottlieb)
  • Danish artist during Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods
  • Famous for works in 1920s and 30s
  • Art style shows essences of Japanese prints and Edvard Munch, seen in middle image
  • Born in rural region of Denmark, showed talent for art at a young age.
  • Met her late husband, Einar Wegener, at Academy of Art in Copenhagen, married when she was 19 and he was 22.
  • Gerda worked with a social critique of sexuality and much of her work could be described as lesbian erotica (for the sake of the class I’ll try to show as much clothing as possible)
  • Encouraged her husband, Einar Wegener (who came out as transgender, later known as Lili Elbe) have the first recorded sex-change operation in 1929, which after leading to Elbe’s death in 1931
  • Lili's death led to controversially calling Gerda Wegener a “murderer"
  • Marriage annulled because same-sex marriages were illegal in Denmark at the time
  • Later married Italian diplomat, Fernando Porta, and moved to Morocco in 1931 but got a divorce in 1936 and returned to Denmark, where her art had fell out of style.
  • She died in 1940, poor and alone after she took to drinking. There was little news of the death in media


  • Gerda’s work is connected to the themes of sexuality and gender in contemporary life
  • How it should be portrayed and how much of it should be portrayed in media.
  • Art is a symbol of female pleasure and freedom of speech, where much of modern society takes sexuality as an inappropriate and vulgar concept in media.


  • Mainly known for erotica works, also a significant amount of works used model Lili Elbe (who was actually her husband) which led to widespread controversial opinion on her art
  • Portrayal of lesbian relationships in paintings led to the belief that she herself was lesbian
  • When living in Paris during WWII, she created many patriotic sketches and cartoons
  • Achievements as an artist held highly in liberal society, though criticized by Denmark then
  • “What is more impressive is that she got ahead without trying to be more like the men to do it,” says Rygg Karberg. “She loved makeup and fashion, and didn’t see why embracing these traditionally feminine things should make her any less strong. She wanted it all.”
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