Ahead of Her Time

The Revolutionary Female Gaze of Greta Wegener

Two Cocottes with Hats (Gerda and Lili), Gerda Wegener (c. 1925)

Danish illustrator and painter Gerda Wegener most frequently depicted elegant women enjoying their leisure time, and is known for for pushing the boundaries of gender norms and the female gaze in the early 21st century. Described by art historian Andrea Rygg Karberg as "the Lady Gaga of the 1920s," Wegener developed a style that celebrated both lesbian relationships and gender fluidity, and at times was characterized as "lesbian erotica." Wegener's longtime partner was Lili Elbe, a transgender woman who became among the first-ever recipients of gender-affirming surgery. Wegener and Elbe's story was the subject of The Danish Girl (2015), in which Wegener is portrayed by Alicia Vikander and Elbe by Eddie Redmayne. As Rygg Karberg described Gerda, she "was a pioneer who spent two decades as part of the Parisian art scene and revolutionized the way women are portrayed in art.”