Gerda Wegener

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Gerda Gottlieb Wegener Porta
Gerda Wegener.jpg
Gerda Wegener (1904)
Birth name Gerda Marie Fredrikke Gottlieb
Born (1886-03-15)March 15, 1886
Died July 28, 1940(1940-07-28) (aged 54)
Frederiksberg, Denmark
Nationality  Denmark
Field Painting
Movement Art Nouveau

Gerda Gottlieb Wegener Porta (15 March 1886 - 28 July 1940) was a Danish illustrator and painter best known for her erotica.


She grew up originally from the provinces as the daughter of a clergyman. She moved to Copenhagen to pursue her education at the Royal Art Academy, and married fellow artist Einar Wegener (later Lili Elbe) (1882–1931) in 1904. After moving to Paris in 1912, she found much success both as a painter and as illustrator for Vogue, La Vie Parisienne, Fantasio, and many other magazines. As she found fame in Paris, Gerda also developed a following in her home country. She held exhibitions at Ole Haslunds gallery in Copenhagen at regular intervals. Her career relied on a phenomenal talent but perhaps even more so on her notorious diligence, and the advantages that her unusual marriage brought her.

Lili Elbe, who by many at the time was considered a more talented artist, toned down his own work and profile to help his wife in her artistic endeavors. Posing for Gerda in women's clothes, Lili became Gerda's favorite model, and eventually came out as a male-to-female transsexual woman. She had the first publicly known sex reassignment surgery in history in 1930. Her partner supported Elbe throughout her transition. The Wegeners' marriage was declared null and void in October 1930 by Christian X, the King of Denmark at that time.

In 1931, Gerda Wegener married the Italian officer, aviator and diplomat Major Fernando Porta (born 1896) and moved with him to Morocco (specifically Marrakech and Casablanca). She divorced Porta in 1936 and returned to Denmark in 1938. She held her last exhibition in 1939, but by this time she was largely out of fashion. She died in July 1940.

Book and film[edit]

The Danish Girl, David Ebershoff's 2001 novel about Einar/Lili and Gerda was an international bestseller and was translated into a dozen languages. The novel is being developed for the screen by producers Gail Mutrux and Neil LaBute.

Books illustrated by Wegener[edit]

External links[edit]