Leonard Fox Rare Books is pleased to announce Gerda Wegener: La Vie Parisienne, an exhibit examining the art and life of Danish-born Gerda Wegener through advertisements, fashion illustrations, and portraits of the idealized femme fatale. As the first exhibition of her works in the US our aim is to bring this delightful artist into view once again.
Gerda Wegener took Art Deco Paris by storm with her adventurous spirit and superb artistry, winning numerous awards as well as commissions for portraits of Parisian society women. Her artwork was as much a product of the time as it was of her own personal style. A friend described her as “different from other artists at the time. Outwardly, she almost looked like the women she painted. She was small and had bright sparkling eyes, an elegant figure, an innate charm and beautiful voice. She used all this to her advantage; she wore makeup without scruple at a time when it wasn’t very common for women to wear makeup. She dressed astoundingly, but with taste.” In modern times Gerda Wegener has become equally well known for her unusual life alongside Einar Wegener—her teacher, husband, and agent—and her favorite female model.
With her avant-garde personal style, she incorporated many popular artistic styles of the time borrowing motifs from Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and Cubism to create compositions that combined soft areas of colors and patterns, with sharp angles and sinuous lines. Another notable feature of Wegener’s works were her women. Lavishly dressed, or half-undressed, in the latest fashions, they invite the viewer to act as voyeur. Wegener’s playful mix of fashion and art, along with her great skill as an artist, continues to endear her to many.
Born in 1885 in Hobro, Denmark, Gerda Wegener studied drawing at the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Copenhagen. After leaving school, she illustrated satirical newspaper ads in an Art Nouveau style. In 1912 she moved to Paris, with her husband Einar Wegener, where her career as an illustrator took off with work illustrating the latest fashions for some of the early French magazines, such as La Vie Parisienne, Vogue and L’Illustration. She participated in many French salons and exhibitions: Salon des Humoristes, Salon des Indépendents, as well as the Salon d’Automne, of which she became a member in 1927. Many French museums bought her paintings. She also illustrated a considerable number of deluxe, limited edition books of erotic stories. In 1940, Gerda Wegener died in relative obscurity in her native Denmark.