Bourgeois, possibly a paper doll that was not cut out of board, signed lower left "Zelda" inscribed upper right "Bourgeois", gouache on board, 14 x 8 in.; carved and gilt wood frame, 24-1/2 x 20-1/2 in.
An Introduction by the consignor:
Zelda’s paintings “Bourgoise” and The Camellias, hung in my grandparent’s home, then my parent’s and now hang in mine. Thanks to the stories my grandmother told and retold to me,
Zelda was as large a figure in my imagination as she was in real life.
My grandmother, Birdie Frank Gassenheimer, was a friend of Zelda’s in Montgomery, Alabama in the early 1900’s. Born in Montgomery just a few years earlier, they both attended Sidney Lanier High School.
The last child of 11, Birdie wasn’t even given a name until 6 years old; she was called “Baby” until one day hanging from a window she pointed and called “Birdie” and so named herself.
Like Zelda and another contemporary, Tallulah Bankhead, born two years after Zelda, all three were extroverted and independent. Spoiled in childhood and doted on in adolescence they lived a carefree life lacking for little. Birdie’s stories were about outings, dating, and parties. The one I loved the most was about Zelda, Birdie and friends late night skinny dipping in the Dexter Avenue fountain in downtown Montgomery. They were free, uninhibited and determined to enjoy their youth. Having visited
the fountain myself countless times, I could never get enough of this story, picturing their hats, dresses and under things hanging on the wrought iron fencing around the fountain. Imagining them shrieking and splashing under the stars was captivating.
They went with boys on hunting and fishing trips- not to hunt and fish but to drink, smoke, and gossip. Nights were filled with fancy dress dinners and dancing and of course their dance cards were always full. They definitely exemplified “living in the moment.”
But as you know from the fame of Zelda and Tallulah, there was also a dark side with episodes of manic depression, substance abuse and attention seeking behavior. Birdie did not escape this. A semi-pro golfer with a bright future she gave it up when she married. It seems as if even
women as self sufficient as these were often cowed and overshadowed by the men in their lives, in constant rebellion to what was expected of women at the time.
Very close to Birdie and like lots of kids, I spent more time at her house than my own. She was always so much fun. I loved watching her entertain grown-ups with fancy cocktails and lavish multi-course meals. She was the life of the party. Kids were expected to ”be seen and not heard” so we sat on the floor playing with cards and poker chips, underneath where “The Zelda’s” were prominently hung. Listening to the conversations we’d wonder what was always so riotously funny. Often we would take our Shirley Temples outside on the terrace of their Bankhead Avenue home and play at being grown up, a little drunk on the happy time, food,
and heady aromas of camellias and magnolias surrounding the home in abundance.
I would often spend Friday night with Birdie after the parties and we’d lie awake talking until falling asleep when she’d tell me the stories again. They seemed like the very best memories for her too. Saturday afternoons would find us listening to opera in the living room, she on the sofa and me on the floor beneath “The Zeldas” given to Birdie from Zelda with love.
Provenance: By descent in the Gassenheimer family; Property from a Private Collector
toning, pin hole lower left and upper right corner, not examined out of archival frame; frame with light wear
By descent in the Gassenheimer family; Property from a Private Collector