Sometimes you see pictures that simply take your breath away. The picture of Peter Freuchen, arctic explorer and Dagmar Freuchen-Gale (Cohn), artist and fashion illustrator is such a picture. But who were they? In the picture Freuchen is a huge figure, bearded, furred-up and scowling, he is towering over the stylish, hatted and femine Cohn. What you can't see was that he was minus a leg. An unlikely couple. Freuchen and Cohn were in fact married three times. His marriage to Cohn was his last. It was to be her first of two. His first marriage to Navarana Mequpaluk, an Inuit woman who died in the Spanish Flu epidemic after bearing two children (a boy named Mequsaq Avataq Igimaqssusuktoranguapaluk and a girl named Pipaluk Jette Tukuminguaq Kasaluk Palika Hager. (His grandson from this marriage Peter Freuchen Ittinuar, was the first Inuk in Canada to be elected as a member of parliament. Freuchen's second marriage was annulled. He was a great explorer. While still just 21 years of age, he spent the winter of 1907-08 manning a weather station 70km away from any other human being, unable even to read because all the books were frozen, with wolves lurking close by outside his hut. In one trek with dogs he covered an amazing 1000 kilometers. Clements Markham, president of the Royal Geographical Society, called the journey the "finest ever performed by dogs." Freuchen once said to Time Magazine that he "have heard it said that Arctic explorers are inferior men who would be lost in the civilized world." A Bohemian before his time, Freuchen seemed to find a spiritual happiness in Greenland. He dressed in full Inuit attire and described the Inuit people as “the happiest in the world”. In turn, Greenlanders named him ‘Petersuaq’, or Peter the Great. Freuchen was a great critic of the church who evangelised amongst the Inuit. He thought they had made no effort to understand the culture. He later joined the social democrats in Denmark. When WW2 broke out he joined the resistance to fight the Nazi's inspite of having lost a leg in frostbite in 1926. He was caught by the Nazis, sentenced to death, but escaped. That's when he went to America.
His first family on a visit to Denmark. In Amercica fellow Dane Dagmar Cohn, had come to New York in 1938. Her first husband Muller, also a Dane was killed fighting in WW2. Dagmar was an artist and considered a top fashion illustrator, working for magazines such as Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. In April 1947, Dagmar illustrated the cover of Vogue. See pic below.
It was from an issue with news from post-Liberation Paris. The 'civilised world' was just recovering. Vogue reported that in Paris where besides the bone-chilling cold, there was full skirts and wasp-waisted, silk-shantung Bar jackets. It was an extravagantly feminine “New Look” for Parisiennes, accustomed to the frugal and utilitarian, that was dreamed up by a new designer, Christian Dior, at a brand-new house bearing his name. Before this breakthrough, in 1944, she met Freuchen at the home of Danish friends in New York, she was 37 he was 58. They married a year later. During their marriage, she became an expert on various cuisines from around the world. Dagmar joined Peter only once in his travels, on an expedition to Iceland, during which she served native meals including pickled whale blubber and seaweed. She edited several of Peter's books. In 1968 she wrote Cookbook of the Seven Seas, whose title was inspired by her husbands famous book, Book of the Seven Seas. Peter often travelled for his work during their marriage but is reported to have written home every day and sent a copy of each correspondence to the Danish Royal Library, to be opened 50 years after his death, in 2007. The preface of his last work, Book of the Seven Seas, is dated August 30, 1957, in Noank. He died of a heart attack three days later in Elmendorf, Alaska. Dagmar died March 9 at a hospital in Fredensborg, Denmark, having married for a third time. She was 83 and had no kids.