Brain Pickings

Zelda Fitzgerald’s Little-Known Art

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From Alice in Wonderland to Times Square, a delicate dance of the imagination.

When Zelda Sayre married legendary Jazz Age novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald to become Zelda Fitzgerald, she was anointed “the first American flapper” and embarked on one of the most turbulent relationships in literary history. Though best-remembered as a writer and dancer, Zelda, unbeknownst to many, not only considered herself an artist but was also an exceptionally gifted one. Her paintings place her among history’s famous writers with little-known talents in the visual arts, including Tolkien’s drawings, Sylvia Plath’s sketches, William Faulkner’s Jazz Age illustrations, and Flannery O’Connor’s cartoons.

Zelda: An Illustrated Life: The Private World of Zelda Fitzgerald (public library) collects 140 illustrations and 80 of her paintings from the late 1930s and 1940s, lovingly compiled by her granddaughter, the Vermont-based writer, filmmaker and artist Eleanor Anne Lanahan. From her cityscapes of New York City and Paris to her psychedelic Biblical allegories to her delicate paper dolls she made for her daughter Scottie, the art paints an intricate picture of her psychoemotional world and reflects her passion for fairy tales, her irreverent dance with the absurd, and her enormous sensitivity to beauty — a visual reflection of the blend of intense intelligence and unapologetic mischievousness that made Zelda so alluring.

Puppeufee (The Circus)

Brooklyn Bridge

Times Square

Central Park

Washington Square

Marriage at Cana

Hansel and Gretel

Great Smokey Mountains

The Pantheon and Luxemburg gardens

Star of Bethlehem

A lady and a costume from The Louis XIV set (paper doll)

Ladies' costume from The Louis XIV set (paper doll)

A lady and a costume from The Louis XIV set (paper doll)

But as a lover of Alice in Wonderland art, I was especially thrilled to see Zelda’s paintings for the Carroll classic:

Lobster Quadrille

The Queen’s Croquet-Ground

Advice from a Caterpillar

Who Stole the Tarts

A Mad Tea Party

Zelda: An Illustrated Life is an absolute delight from cover to cover. Complement it with the art of Norah Borges.

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