A Woman to Know: Dagmar Freuchen-Gale

I guess you could call it love at first sight. — Dagmar Freuchen-Gale

(image via the Irving Penn Foundation*)


In 1938, Dagmar came to New York.

After she'd lost her first husband to World War II, the young artist left her native Denmark and set about crafting a new life in Manhattan, working as a fashion illustrator for America's biggest magazines. Her drawings and sketches soon appeared in Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. In 1947, her now-iconic Vogue cover introduced Christian Dior's "New Look."

But in 1947, Dagmar herself was introduced to someone who would forever change her life: the Arctic explorer Peter Freuchen. The couple made a quite the splash in the New York social scene. Peter, with his scraggly beard and eccentric style, and Dagmar, with her petite figure and impeccable ensembles, became the odd couple spotted at parties. At 6'7", he towered over his petite wife — but he relied on her for quite a lot. Dagmar edited her intrepid husband's articles and books, and while he was away on explorations, he'd write her a letter every day (also sending a copy to the Royal Danish Library, for safe-keeping his legacy, of course).

On a trip to Iceland together, the local cuisine inspired Dagmar to even author a cookbook of her own, pulling from many of the ingredients — like, ahem, whale blubber — that they had used on the ice.

After Peter died in 1957 (prepping for an adventure in Alaska), Dagmar stayed in New York. She later remarried and continued teaching with the Art Students League in New York. She died in 1991, at the age of 83.

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* Photograph by Irving Penn, Peter and Dagmar Freuchen, New York, 1947, © The Irving Penn Foundation
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