Zelda Fitzgerald's Art Makes a Novel Return

Article excerpt

Long scattered and almost forgotten, the vivid paintings of the novelist F Scott Fitzgerald's mentally disturbed wife Zelda are to be belatedly introduced to the world by her granddaughter.

Eleanor Lanahan was inspired to write Zelda, An Illustrated Life after being contacted by a student who was writing a dissertation on Zelda Fitzgerald's art.

Her research alerted Ms Lanahan to the whereabouts of many of Zelda's paintings and led her to discover 11 works that her grandmother had painted in therapy exercises in a Baltimore psychiatric clinic.

The book is the first to be devoted to Zelda's art. It is illustrated with dozens of her paintings and gives a frank portrait of the Southern belle who was born in 1900, married Fitzgerald at 20 and was the centre of the Jazz Age until she was diagnosed as a schizophrenic. She was plagued by madness until her death, aged 48, in a fire at an asylum.

In recent years Zelda's fiction, much of it published under the name of her famous husband, has undergone a critical rejuvenation. But her art remains unknown. "{It} has been systematically ignored, even rejected, as a serious subject for evaluation and analysis," writes the art historian Jane Livingston in the book.

Zelda turned to painting after a decade of desperate living, immortalised in her husband's The Great Gatsby. She and Fitzgerald were seen as a golden couple. But their dream soured in a morass of drinking.

"Together they caused so many scenes and passed out so often at parties as to become a kind of national attraction. 'Here come the Fitzgeralds!' their friends exclaimed when they entered a room; before the night was over Scott might well have busted up the furniture, tossed figs at his hostess, or chewed and swallowed a wad of $20 bills before crumpling to the floor," the book says.

An actress, Laurette Taylor, observed after meeting the couple that she had just seen "the doom of youth itself". …