Lili and Elna Tegner at the Carnival, n.d. Photographer unknown (Rudolph Tegner Museum)
4 Karl Madsen’s articles in Politiken: “Kunst og Natur”, 3.5.1907, “Kunst og Kritik”, 12.5.1907, “Kunsten og Emnerne”, 14.5.1907, “Bondefanger-Kritik”, 18.5.1907, “Et Farvel”, 22.5.1907, and others. 5 Agnes Slott-Møller, “Kunsten og Emnerne”, Politiken, 6.5.1907, Harald Slott-Møller, “Karl Madsen”, Politiken, 8.5.1907, “Madsens Polemik”, Politiken, 16.5.1907, “Afslutning”, Politiken, 19.5.1907, and others. 6 Hentze. 7 Karl Madsen: “Kunst og Natur”, Politiken, 3.5.1907. 8 Hentze.
the Naturalists, the Realists and the Impressionists, as the artists wanted to depict visible reality frankly and honestly.4 Agnes and Harald Slott-Møller were on the same side as Hentze and emphasized the world of the imagination, the emotions and thought as something that it was just as important to paint.5 Regarding Gerda Wegener and her work, one faction emphasized that this was “a skilled and serious work” and showed “unusual – indeed very unusual – formal skill and a great sense of beauty, supported by a splendid technique”6 – while the other faction stated: “Perhaps the adjudicators […] looked at the ability and considered it still weak”.7 Gerda Wegener never said anything herself, but had the work shown along with other works by her at Winkel and 16
Magnussen’s art dealership, where the great publicity made her exhibition a crowd-drawer. Ever since, the work has been known from an old black-and-white photograph of this exhibition, but in 2015 it has been found for ARKEN’s exhibition and photographed in colour, and it is now being exhibited again for the first time since 1907. This provides a suitable occasion to note that there is nothing wrong with the technical execution. Ellen von Kohl sits like a Renaissance woman in a 16th-century portrait, viewed obliquely from the side with her face turned towards us. The dress, the background and the hair are in the darker colours, while the face, the skin in the neck opening of the dress and the beautiful hands are in lighter shades. The long, slender fingers are typical of Gerda Wegener’s visual idiom, elegant and mannered. To these we can add the strangest thing in the picture, the only thing that our eyes tell us may have seemed objectionable – the eyes and the woman’s gaze. The eyes are not clearly open. Ellen von Kohl both sees and does not see. She appears to be half in a trance, present not only in this world, but also in the one she sees with her mind’s eye. The model is not a worn-out old woman “with mittens and a back bent by work”,8 but a well-dressed, highly cultivated and sensitive being, so sensitive that for better or worse she seemed sensual and erotic to the viewers of the time. If one looks her up in Weilbachs Kunstnerleksikon, there is a fuller body of material on Gerda Wegener which uses the same language about her style that appears again and
From the exhibition GERDA WEGENER.