It’s unpicnicky. A Mad Tea-Party is,agitated and foreboding, perhaps suggesting Fitzgerald’s unfulfilled (unrealistic) desire to become a ballet dancer. Despite the allusion to Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, this tea party is without humor. If Fitzgerald is Alice, she’s the limp doll on the picnic cloth.
The colors are jarring. The heavy emphasis of red and black suggests blood and death. The recumbent ballerina is flanked by a spectral figure dressed in black and red without facial features. He stands with arms spread with a gesture that is not welcoming. His costume suggests a ballet master or circus ringmaster, perhaps a negative allusion to her husband Scott or her doctors.
The forest, in the background suggests the locale of Ashville, North Carolina, where Fitzgerald was receiving treatment for schizophrenia. On either side of the picnic are two buildings resembling medieval castles, one red and one white that may suggest love and hate. An open path in a grove of evergreens leads to a blank horizon.
There is no food. The wicker and the teacups are empty.
*Another of Fitzgerald’s paintings alluding to Alice in Wonder Land is The Lobster Quadrille, painted in the 1940s.
See: Zelda by Herself, http://halsey.cofc.edu/exhibitions/zelda/; Zelda Fitzgerald. A Mad Tea Party (1940s?), gouache on paper. F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald Museum; http://www.southernliterarytrail.org/montgomery.html