Zelda Fitzgerald first began creating paper dolls in 1927, most likely as a way to engage with her then 6 year old daughter Frances "Scottie" Fitzgerald. It was a time of great artistic expression for Zelda, albeit one that was taxing on the young mother. Zelda suffered her first several severe psychological breakdown in 1930. As had been the case in previous published works, F. Scott Fitzgerald took inspiration from his wife’s life for his novel Tender Is the Night (1934). In addition to the overarching themes dealing with mental illness and marital difficulties, a range of metaphors and allusions to dolls can be found throughout the book. Dick Diver remarks at one point, "I couldn't have lifted a paper doll that time." The author later explicitly acknowledged that the novel had "a good deal of my wife in it" (see lot 33).
Zelda continued making dolls throughout her life, creating depictions of her family, religious figures, animals, fairy tales such as Goldilocks and the Three Bears, King Arthur and his knights, and the court of Louis XIV (like the set reproduced in The Romantic Egoists). The figures are all curiously androgynous, with an exaggerated and distinctly modern musculature.
Zelda’s dolls constitute a large portion of her surviving artistic output. Sadly, many of the paintings she created during her lifetime have been lost, some to the same fire that claimed her life in 1948. There has been a critical reappraisal of her artistic work in recent years, an effort to paint a more complete picture of the woman who had lived in the shadow of her husband's notoriety for so many years. As the couple’s granddaughter Eleanor Lanahan later remarked “She danced. She painted. She wrote. And she lived. Those were all art forms for her. It’s her total being that is a legacy.”
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