See A Newly Discovered Zelda Fitzgerald Self-Portrait

Illustration for article titled See A Newly Discovered Zelda Fitzgerald Self-Portrait

Here's something cool from the Princeton library: In January of 1927, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald were living in a Los Angeles hotel while Scott worked on a screenplay that would never be produced. A newly discovered telegram — to which Zelda added two quick sketches — sheds some light on a period of the Fitzgeralds' lives that was creatively productive but emotionally fraught. The marriage was already rocky, marred by infidelities and alcohol, and Zelda would be diagnosed with schizophrenia and committed to a mental hospital in 1930.

The Times Literary Supplement has a great piece about the telegram, which was sent to the Fitzgeralds by James Quirk, the editor of Photoplay magazine who wanted to commission an essay from the author. It reads:

We want to get a five hundred word editorial from you the greybeard psychologists and economists are criticising youth saying it is extravagant and that we are headed for the fate of Rome we want to admit their terrific extravagance and point out that they buy everything in the world to make life beautiful and attractive from their faces to their homes to point out that if this army of twenty million of the flapper type in this country who spend a conservative average of one thousand dollars a year on their faces their backs their entertainment and their recreations which would amount to twenty billion dollars suddenly ceased to feel the joy of life and cut their efforts to get their man it would undoubtedly result in a national panic we want an editorial from you as a great exponent of youth of about five hundred words in which youth admits and glories in its extravagance and its joy of life and claims the salvation of the country economically since the depression which followed the war would like to have this in a month can you write it and what would the bad news be James E. Quirk Editor Photoplay Magazine


Writers and editors using euphemisms to talk about money; old people complaining about the excesses of youth. 'Twas ever thus.

Zelda Fitzgerald took some notes in longhand on the telegram, and sketched two portraits: one of herself, and the other of her husband. Their faces are divided by a row of X's and each has a little heart. Author Anne Margaret Daniel writes:

In his account of the Fitzgeralds in A Moveable Feast, published long after both were dead, Ernest Hemingway referred to Zelda's hooded, hawk-like eyes. In her self-portrait here, her lips are a whimsical Cupid's-bow squiggle, and her nose tips up, as was true to life. Scott's face is severe and stern, as if mirroring their troubles of the time. He is much prettier than Zelda – bearing out his wry observation, years later, "I look like a femme fatale". There is a small, darkly outlined heart by his cheek, like the one at Zelda's chin.

Illustration for article titled See A Newly Discovered Zelda Fitzgerald Self-Portrait

A tiny picture of the drawing was published in the TLS. As for the essay, Scott didn't end up writing it, and Photoplay didn't end up publishing it. Zelda's essay, titled "Paint and Powder," was instead published by The Smart Set in 1929, under F. Scott Fitzgerald's byline. Editors often insisted on running Zelda Fitzgerald's work under her husband's name or under a joint byline, because thanks to the success of This Side of Paradise, his was the more marketable name.


The Fitzgeralds in Hollywood [TLS]

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The Great Gatsby was not a success, It was a dismal commertcial failure - it did not become a success until AFTER Fitzgerald died. Arthur Mizener wrote The Far Side of Paradise, and because of its success, people became re-interested in Fitzgerlad, and since then, The Great Gatsby's been a huge success. He became a huge overnight sensation because of This Side of Paradise, and it was because of the success of that book that he was able to command huge sums for his short stories and why some of Zelda's work was published under his name, ot their names.

Anyway, that sketch is beautiful. She sketched wonderfully, and those eyes look so, so, sad.