Lizzie Siddal

By Lucinda Hawksley

Printed: 2008

Publisher: Andre Deutsch. London

Dimensions 14 × 21 × 2 cm

Language: English

Size (cminches): 14 x 21 x 2

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In the original dustsheet. Green cloth binding with gilt title on the spine.

  • F.B.A. provides an in-depth photographic presentation of this item to stimulate your feeling and touch. More traditional book descriptions are immediately available.

The supermodel did not arrive when Twiggy first donned false eyelashes; the concept began more than 100 years previously, with a young artists’ model whose face captivated a generation. Saved from the drudgery of a working-class existence by a young Pre-Raphaelite artist, Lizzie Siddal rose to become one of the most famous faces in Victorian Britain and a pivotal figure of London’s artistic world, until tragically ending her young life in a laudanum-soaked suicide in 1862. In the twenty-first century, even those who do not know her name always recognise her face: she is Millais’s doomed Ophelia and Rossetti’s beatified Beatrice. With many parallels in the modern-day world of art and fashion, this biography takes Lizzie from the background of Dante Rossetti’s life and, finally, brings her to the forefront of her own.

Review: Art historian Hawksley, (who is a direct descendant of Charles Dickens), tells of the romance between Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Lizzie Siddal. It was actually an American artist, Walter Deverell, that discovered the ‘stunner’ when he accompanied his mother to the hat shop where Lizzie worked. With his mother’s help, he secured her services as a model for his own pictures before Holman Hunt and Millais were to immortalise her in theirs. On meeting her later, Dante was immediately obsessed by Lizzie and she with him. It was a claustrophobic relationship – he was commitment-phobic and both were insanely jealous and attention-seeking. Lizzie was depressive, anorexic and was frequently ill – particularly when Rossetti wasn’t paying attention to her – she always got better when he ran to her bedside; despite that she did become a laudanum addict early on. They did finally marry, but laudanum was to be her final downfall when she suffered post-natal depression after the stillbirth of their child. She comes across as manipulative and demanding, but remember she was desperate to be married to the love of her life – as ruin for her and her family would be the result if their unmarried relationship became fully public. Rossetti, while undoubtedly talented, was totally self-interested and rarely worked at his best when Lizzie was around. When she died, he buried the only copy of a book of poems he’d written for her with the casket, and amazingly it was later dug up! – It really happened, although he did get an official exhumation order for it – selfish as ever. The other really interesting character in their life was the art critic John Ruskin – a rich and hugely influential person in the Victorian art world. It is doubtful whether Rossetti would have got anywhere without his patronage, and without him having supported John Everett Millais first. Ruskin recognised that the PRB were trying to do something different in their back to nature ideals. Ruskin also took Lizzie under his patronage too as she showed talent at art, and it helped Lizzie to maintain her aura of respectability. Hawksley’s biography concentrates on the events of Lizzie’s life rather than commentating on the art, and made for an entertaining read with a good selection of illustrations. The highlights include some of Dante and Lizzie’s poetry which is touching and sad.



Elizabeth Eleanor Siddall (25 July 1829 – 11 February 1862), better known as Elizabeth Siddal (a spelling she adopted in 1853), was an English artist, artists’ model, and poet. Siddal was perhaps the most significant of the female models who posed for the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Their ideas of female beauty were fundamentally influenced and personified by her. Walter Deverell and William Holman Hunt painted Siddal, and she was the model for John Everett Millais’s famous painting Ophelia (1852). Early in her relationship with Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Siddal became his muse and exclusive model, and he portrayed her in almost all his early artwork depicting women.

William Holman Hunt, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Valentine Rescuing Sylvia From Proteus, 1850 or 1851

Siddal became an artist in her own right and was the only woman to exhibit at an 1857 Pre-Raphaelite exhibition. Significant collections of her artworks can be found at Wightwick Manor and the Ashmolean. Sickly and melancholic during the last decade of her life, Siddal died of a laudanum overdose in 1862 during her second year of marriage to Rossetti.

About the Author – Lucinda Hawksley is the great-great-great granddaughter of Charles Dickens and a patron of the Charles Dickens Museum in London. She has written more than 20 books, including Lizzie Siddal, The Tragedy of a Pre-Raphaelite Supermodel (2004) and Katey, The Life and Loves of Dickens’s Artist Daughter (2006). A part-time lecturer as well as a writer, Lucinda is an expert in Dickens’s family life and has been awarded a fellowship to study the life of Augustus Dickens (Charles’s brother and the original “Boz”) at the Newberry Library in Chicago.

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