Gerd Miller was one of the leading illustrators of Swedish weeklies for four decades during the 1900s. She illustrated short stories and serials and also produced clothes patterns and cartoons. She held a special position as a style icon of youth culture and as a representative of new post-war women’s roles.
Gerd Miller was born in 1925. She grew up in Vasastan in Stockholm. Aged 14 she started attending a girls’ school, having completed her public schooling, but was forced to suspend her formal education when she developed tuberculosis and had to endure lengthy spells at the sanatorium. Her father was a photo engraver, which meant that he used chemical methods to reproduce original pictures and printed material for books or journals. Gerd Miller thus gained insights into the prerequisites of printed illustration from an early point. Her father did not, however, want her to become an artist due to the unreliability of earning an income which was a feature of that profession. Once Gerd Miller was declared healthy she nevertheless spent a couple of years attending Welamson’s art and illustration school in Stockholm, presumably at night-time. Following her debut in the weekly press in 1944 she only took one break from her lengthy drawing career, during 1950–1951, when she attended The Art Students’ League in New York.
Although Gerd Miller was largely self-taught she was only 19 when she had her first submitted drawing accepted for printing. This was in 1944 and her submission was to the youth newspaper 25:an, a Helsingborg-based Allerskoncernen newspaper. Through this publication she was exposed to the Danish and southern Swedish weekly paper culture and its associated illustrators, comprising Christel, Tullia Fischer, Ib Thaning, Marstrand, and Wigo amongst others. Further, she learned to produce drawings for colour printing as 25:an was the only publication to use this method. In 1945 she joined Åhlén & Åkerlund’s publishing house and VeckoRevyn which became the leading exponent of post-war youth culture, with its broad focus on everything from music, literature, theatre, film, photography, fashion, and the new genres of popular culture. As a freelancer she was part of the Stockholm editorial board under Mikael Katz and Karin von Platen. The latter was the fiction editor and responsible for taking on suitable illustrators who were compatible with the serial- and short-story authors. A stable of prominent illustrators were associated with the newspaper, such as Gobi, Liling Nyström, Gesa Grumme, Hans Arnold, Mago, Ilon Wiklund, Ulla Sundin and many more. These were the last of the great illustrators before the weekly press abandoned hand-drawn illustrations in favour of colour photography during the 1960s and 1970s. VeckoRevyn used green and orange intaglio for a long time, introducing these colours into the black-and-white layout. Gerd Miller mastered this colour combination supremely and generated an extremely elegant abstract illustrated tradition. She also drew patterns for the extremely successful company called Stil-mönster and presented her own designs in the journal. She held a special position on the editorial board from an early point, both as an illustrator and a fashion trendsetter, and through the reports – in VeckoRevyn and other journals – on her home, her sartorial elegance, and her profession she became a role model for her generation.
Gerda Miller came to represent a new type of female role through her personal style and her awareness of contemporary codes. What was particular about her artistry was not just her sense of the fashion and interior design indicators that were typical of her era – in the teenager’s room, in the operating room, in the flight cabin, at the office, and in the hotel lobby, etc – but also of the psychological interplay between men and women. She gave women of all ages an authority which, at a discreet distance, could overrule male dominance. She always managed, using subtle nuances, to make her model-beautiful women stand out as models of emancipation. Following several visits to continental Europe she got married in Florence in 1952 to Robert E. Miller, an American fighter pilot and academic. Their egalitarian marriage, in which Gerd Miller was the main income earner, was noted in the press.
Gerd Miller contributed to almost all the Swedish weeklies, such as Femina, Husmodern, Året Runt, and Damernas Värld, as well as the Swedish edition of Elle. She had a very high output rate and became one of the highest-paid illustrators of the Swedish weekly press.
Gerd Miller died in Stockholm in 1988.