ZELDA AND SCOTT: THE BEAUTIFUL AND THE DAMNED -- At the National Portrait Gallery through December 1st.
The rooms are peach, the sort of peach you'd associate with Daisy in The Great Gatsby . On one wall is mounted a huge fan of feathers, a peacock color, bought for Zelda with earnings from Scott's early writings.
Personal life-things at the National Portrait Gallery in the Fitzgerald exhibit, "The Beautiful and the Damned," tell the story of the Fitzgeralds: through their lives in "The Jazz Age," his bestseller at 23, her decline into mental illness, and his attempts to rescue himself as a writer, in Hollywood.
A lampshade Zelda painted in 1928 is less a household fixture than a statement. On it, members of her family, servants and a friend ride a merry-go-round -- Zelda on a rooster, Scott on an elephant, past places they'd visited, from Wilmington, Delaware, to the Riviera.
Two things are banal -- a canceled check Scott wrote in 1929 to the IRS -- or telling -- two of the wires Scott Fitzgerald sent to his literary agent Harold Ober asking for money. (The later one turned out to be one to many, and was ignored.)
"We didn't want to put the entire biography pn the wall," said Fred Voss, a curator of the exhibit, "but I think we ended up doing it."
They decided to gather the exhibit together when they noticed that so many people recognized the gallery's Harrison Fisher portrait sketches of Zelda and Scott. They'd say, "Oh! The Fitzgeralds!" without even reading the labels.
As Michael Lawson, also a curator of this show, said, "This town has a lot of English majors." And a lot of aspiring movelists, and a lot more people who understand the capriciousness of fame.
Just the sort of people who'd enjoy seeing priceless memorabilia of a writer whose dissipation and disappointments they may consider a small price for a clear shot at immortality. They'll wander the gallery rooms, past the first editions, the photographs of the couple, portraits of their friends and Zelda's paintings, and pause to read a letter Scott wrote on October 27, 1924, to Max Perkins at Scribner's: "Under separate cover I'm sending you my third novel: The Great Gatsby ."