From Publishers Weekly
This book traces the life of Lizzie Siddal, who, from her humble beginnings as a shop girl, became a central figure of the Pre-Raphaelite movement by the time she died at 32 from a self-inflicted overdose of opiates. Today, readers are used to stories of small-town hopefuls using modeling as a springboard to wider artistic success (think Marilyn Monroe or Andie MacDowell), but Siddal, Hawksley claims, was the first. As a model and then an artist in her own right, this remarkable woman crossed paths with some of Victorian England's greatest artistic luminaries, appearing in masterworks by Walter Deverell, William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and supported by Ford Madox Brown and John Ruskin. Hawksley recounts Siddal's life in exhilarating and painful detail, providing a glimpse of the internal and external forces that contributed to her self-destruction. Because direct evidence is scant-few of Siddal's letters or prose writings survive-scholars have inferred a great deal from the words of others and Siddal's own paintings. In doing so, Hawksley sometimes overreaches, coming across less like a biographer than a conjectural psycholoanalyst; on the whole, however, her work on this important figure is solid, lively and lucid. Scholars of the period will find the book of great interest, as will those wishing to learn more about women in the Victorian art world or about the Pre-Raphaelites in general.
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Tall, slender, red-haired, large-eyed, and regal, the striking young woman known as Lizzie Siddal was working in a London millinery shop when she attracted the fanatic attention of painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti, one of the seven brash young artists who formed the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, declaring that art had "gone wrong" with the great painter Raphael. The romantic if morbid group is best remembered for Rossetti's many portraits of Lizzie, his magnificent obsession. But as Hawksley so crisply documents, for all his adoration, Rossetti was unfaithful and cruel, and Lizzie suffered chronic -anxiety-induced ailments and a wicked addiction to laudanum, dying at 32 in 1862. And still Rossetti's selfishness knew no bounds: he arranged for a ghoulish exhumation of her body to retrieve a poetry manuscript. Writing with authority, energy, and covert wit and indignation, Hawksley offers a fresh and affecting perspective on this still scandalous and tragic story. She relishes the strong personalities involved and their intriguing milieu and subtly guides readers to consider timeless questions pertaining to beauty and power, love and ambition. Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved