[expositie] – Gerda Wegener – Cinderella

Gerda Wegener: Cinderella
by Angelina Senchi

Gerda Wegener was born in 1886, and raised in the small town of Hobro, Denmark. During her teenage years, she moved to Coppenhagen and studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. There, she met her partner, who at the time was Einar Wegener but eventually transitioned to become Lili Elbe. In 1907, Wegener won a contest in a Danish paper Politiken, which allowed her to gain visibility and build her career. From there, she illustrated for women’s fashion magazines. 

Wegener and Lili (but at the time Einar) married in Copenhagen, and then moved to the more accepting city of Paris, where they lived as a lesbian couple. Wegener often depicted Lili in her works, challenging gender norms while also depicting the transgender experience. Parisians were more receptive to both her lifestyle and her artwork, which was progressively becoming more risqué. In addition to the fashion illustrations and Lili portraits, she made erotic depictions of women, revolutionizing how women were illustrated by breaking the male gaze used in most images in the art world. Instead, Wegener painted strong beautiful women without objectifying them, but rather showing them as independent and conscious subjects. Even in her depictions of lesbian erotica, Wegener highlights the beauty of feminine pleasure and queer love. She depicted this carefully in her illustrations and painting, her work was both playful and elegant at the same time. Her fluid lines and use of pastel colors seduce the viewer and shift our gaze. As time went on, Wegener moved away from illustration and towards rendering mischievous and charming paintings of women.