LGBTQ+ Artist Spotlight: Gerda Wegener
LGBTQ+ artist Gerda Wegener (1886-1940) was a Danish illustrator, best known for painting progressive feminist portraits.
Gerda attended the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, where she met her future husband Einar Wegener; who later transitioned to become Lili Elbe - Gerda's favourite muse. When news broke that Gerda's beautiful paintings were, in fact, representations of her husband Einar - the scandal was too much for Copenhagen to bear. The couple moved to the more liberal city of Paris in 1912.
Gerda painted portraits of powerful women which were considered radical in her day for their approach to gender and sexuality. Her potraits of Lili brought her critical accliam and she went on to win two gold medals, and one bronze, at the World's Fair in 1925.
Gerda enjoyed her new found notoriety, throwing lavish, over the top parties - but her fame was to bring severe consequences. When the King of Denmark became aware of her marriage to Lili, who by now was legally a woman, he annulled their marriage. This caused enough legal issues for the couple to amicably separate.
In 1930 Lili became one of the first women to receive gender reassignment surgery; including an attempt to transplant a womb and ovaries so she could have biological children. Sadly, the operation didn't go to plan. Lili died of complications related to her surgery three months later.
Gerda was devastated by Lili's death and moved back to Denmark in 1939. By this time her work was out of favour and she struggled financially, selling cheap Christmas cards to support herself.
Gerda Wegener died alone in 1940 at the age of 54.
David Ebershoff's 2000 novel The Danish Girl was based on the life of Lili Elbe and her relationship with Gerda.
View our collection of Gerda Wegener art prints here