Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Gerda - the "Municipal Nude" of 56537

from the Otter Tail County Historical Society Newsletter and blog

Residents of Fergus Falls were shocked when an article in the April 21, 1966 edition of the Fergus Falls Daily Journal announced that “a painting of a nude woman came to light for the first time in more than 80 years this week when workmen were knocking brick out of a wall of the old city hall on Mill Street.” The paper even included a photograph of the painting…with the bosom blacked out.

Initially called the Municipal Nude the painting soon became known as Gerda in reference to words painted on the back that read “Painted for Gerda H. DeJardin.” On the front left corner was printed “To my loving wife.” The owner of the building, Warren Johnson, displayed Gerda in his furniture store and for some time was a point of community curiosity. Gerda was eventually given to the historical museum in the 1980s for display in a saloon exhibit. It was on display until the spring of 2007 when the pigment deterioration prompted its relocation from display into storage.

Even though there is a name with the painting it remains a mystery in history. There is no record for a Gerda H. DeJardin. Who was she? Where did she come from? How did the painting find its way inside a wall in Fergus Falls?

While Gerda remains a mystery we do know the painting is a copy of John Singer Sargent’s “Egyptian Girl” painted in 1891. “Egyptian Girl” has been described as having a quiet sensuality conveyed by a hint of bosom and bronzed, rounded buttocks. No wonder Gerda caused such a sensation when she was found!

OTCHS has commissioned local artist
Lance Albers to reproduce the oil on canvas painting we fondly refer to as “Gerda,” aka “Municipal Nude.” This painting has hung in our saloon exhibit for the past 20 plus years.

To complete this project and get “Gerda” back on display we need your financial support. Creating a reproduction of Gerda will cost just over $3,000. Additional monies raised will be placed in our collection fund for future projects. Please consider making a tax deductible contribution to the Gerda reproduction project. Gifts over $250 will receive a limited edition print of Gerda.

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