The Playfulness of Modernity

The Wegener poster is to be seen in the middle at Cph Comics
contemplated by Kaja Meyer, a gifted design student of today
and a possible successor in a field till recently dominated by men. 
At the Copenhagen Comics in June the cartoonists had their own section complete with an exhibition in which they each had created a poster on a special predecessor. Ida Felicia Noack chose Valdemar Andersen and his son Ib. Gitte Skov drew the first female cartoonist around these parts: Gerda Wegener (1886-1940).
Gerda Wegener, watercolour from the suite Les Delassements d'Eros,
Erotopolis, 1925.

Gerda Wegener, "Le roi d'Angleterre est mort!"
TikTak, 1911.
"Around these parts" must be taken loosely, since Gerda Wegener is primarily known today for her artwork created in Paris.

If decadence by 1900 had turned its back on the double standards of morality, her work belongs to the playfulness of the genre. Playfulness as in the freedom of everything being possible and not least pleasurable, at times taking a darker turn when a possible rape is at hand, and still more often than not turning into a dance, such as the Le roi d'Angleterre est mort! in which the cherry blossoms balances out his ermine cloak leading her into that darkness or maybe he is the one being lead to her curtain opening onto which he has already grabbed hold.

Gerda Wegener, watercolour from the suite Les Delassements d'Eros,
Erotopolis, 1925.
Speaking of cherry blossoms complete with geisha and vase, the inspiration from the Japanese block prints is palpable in every detail. The illusion of depth is next to obliterated.

The line is everything, personifying the playfulness. Each of her works closes upon itself in a world of its own, in which the line willows while growing flower vines, textiles are ruffled and with soft frills around the neck and wrists of Pierrot adding fullness to his movements while his figure remains willowy, pillows and drapings each have their pattern leaving no part of the plane forgotten.

Everything is taking part in the encounter before us. There is no outside having a say, not even when looking in.

While Gerda Wegener added her flair to the age of art deco, she is a child of art nouveau about which an art specialist once said: "art nouveau is sex" seeing it was all about creating, sprouting and growing life.

Gitte Skov, detail from Gerda Wegener, 2015.
Note Gerda Wegener herself at her easel to the bottom left;
complete with champagne flute in the other hand.

Gerda Wegener, watercolour from the suite Les Delassements d'Eros,
Erotopolis, 1925.
Gitte Skov has collected a bouquet of some of Gerda Wegener's best known couples and twisted them a bit around a bit to create for a new setting for them all. Pierrot and Columbine are here, as is the devil and German First World War-soldiers, since seeing them in a new framework underlines the fragility of the world of joyousness, the lifespan of which would prove to be so short. But for a while they are gathered round the cushioned bed in which two art lovers are finding inspiration in Wegener's own works. In the play with meta-dimensions, even the papers on the paper are softly willowing.

Gitte Skov, detail from Gerda Wegener, 2015.

Gerda Wegener was the epitome of her own women of which she had proof as early as 1908 when she won a contest on drawing the true female Copenhagener. Wegener drew herself as caught in the rain with the umbrella adding magnificence to her already oversized hat while her skirts are billowing from the wind underlining the curves of her figure underneath.

She was the only woman to partake in the contest, embodying the freedom and confidence of the modern woman conquering the streets. Gitte Skov has then added the fact that the wind in Copenhagen more often than not wrecks the umbrella making elegance an impossibility outside the paper. 

Gitte Skov, Gerda Wegener, 2015.

Gitte Skov, detail from Gerda Wegener, 2015.

Gerda Wegener is not least known today as the spouse of the first man to become a woman, Einar Wegener, who later became Lili Elbe, and who modeled for her. Their story is encircling the central scene of Einar posing for her, and dying all to young from complications following transformational surgery. Note the last willowing rose dropping its petals, while a lonely potted plant eventually dies with her.

Gerda Wegener, watercolour from the suite Les Delassements d'Eros,
Erotopolis, 1925.

And just for comparison to her contemporary Valdemar Andersen, who too was known for his light, flowery and not in the least physical line. They are so obviously of the same era, although Valdemar Andersen was not cut out for the international scene. His is the understated touch, hardly even there, letting her lean forward, making for an intimate encounter of which the whole sofa partakes, inked in to set them off. Even the clerk revealed underneath belongs to the whole, complaining that no one notices what he does. 

Valdemar Andersen, Platmenagen, 1908.

Gitte Skov, detail from
 Gerda Wegener, 2015.
The drawings and poster shown is courtesy of Gitte Skov and must not be reproduced without her permission.

Popular posts