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Lizzie Siddal: Face of the Pre-Raphaelites Hardcover – August 22, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 230 pages
  • Publisher: Walker & Company (August 22, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802715508
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802715500
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 6.3 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #143,475 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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 Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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The book is a fast read, and refreshing for a biography.
Brett A. Simpson
Well researched and informative, Hawksley has obviously done a lot of painstaking research and has written this biography in an engaging manner.
rossetti_stunner
Not exactly honorable, but I don't really think we have all the details on that.
Bluestalking Reader

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Lizzie Siddal was the first of the stunning models the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood cultivated during the second half of the nineteenth century. She came from a family that had fallen on hard times and was working in a cramped workshop making hats at the time she was discovered. What attracted so many to her was the rare combination of pale, almost translucent skin that had varying colors showing through, a long neck, distinctive facial features, and amazing red hair. Remember, this was an age when women did not color their hair.

None of this was fashionable nor was she considered a beauty by the standards of her time. However, it is a testament to her personal charisma that she turned every one of her features into something women desired to have. The Pre-Raphaelites looked for models they called "stunners" rather than classical beauties. You notice this when you see their paintings. The models attract you, they seem amazing and beautiful, but when you look closely you aren't exactly sure why they are so much more than the sum of their features.

Lizzie soon developed a relationship with Dante Rossetti, the spiritual leader of the PRB. She was his principal muse and everyone understood they were a couple. To Lizzie's dismay, Dante was never one to follow through to marriage. And like many charismatics, Lizzie suffered from weak health. She became addicted to laudanum, a common enough Victorian problem. Rossetti was also prone to have liaisons with his other models and Lizzie's health became much worse when she was worried about his being with others. When he returned to care for her, her health returned. This was a long term pattern in their life together.

But Lizzie was more than a model. She also had artistic aspirations.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By rossetti_stunner on November 1, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is recommended to anyone who has seen the Wonderful Millais painting Ophelia or have heard the tales of Lizzie and Dante's intense relationship. Well researched and informative, Hawksley has obviously done a lot of painstaking research and has written this biography in an engaging manner.

I also recommend reading Pre-Raphaelites in Love by Gay Daly as well as the wonderful Novel Pale as the Dead.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Brett A. Simpson on October 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book is a well-written and intriguing study of Lizzie Siddal, and her main 'lover', the poet/artist Dante Rossetti who founded the PRB (Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood) in London in the late 1800's.

The book is a fast read, and refreshing for a biography. It cuts to the details and gives us the stories from more than one angle when it is required.

Lucinda Hawksley reveals the startling world of Lizzie Siddal as she meets the PRB artists and models for many of them, but eventually becoming the main model for Dante Rossetti. Her life is full of turmoil throughout, mostly caused by Dante Rossetti's lack of interest in marrying Lizzie and an addiction to Laudanum (opium based pain-killer) which was prevalent throughout the Victorian era. The later chapters are most interesting after Rossetti finally does marry Lizzie and they spend time together as a couple enjoying the parties of London and at Red House (a home of William and Janey Morris near Bexleyheath in Kent which is now owned by the National Trust of England). Unfortunately some pieces of the life of Lizzie are missing and this does throw a shadow near the end as Lizzie's whereabouts are completely unknown for an entire year! It's too bad that she could not be located by any means (letters or otherwise) as it leaves us hanging and trying to understand where she is and what is happening. This occurs right before Lizzie and Rossetti are married and so it is an important time for the story as well, hence I've rated it as 4 (really 4.5 stars) instead of full 5.

The notes are adequate and appear throughout the text at the bottom of the pages. Greater historical notes (brief) are provided in an end Notes section. Anyone interested in Victorian Era life and the art world at that time will find something here.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Bluestalking Reader VINE VOICE on January 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover
What I knew of the Pre-Raphaelite movement consisted of a really fuzzy memory of what I'd read of Dante Gabriel Rossetti's poetry in my undergrad Victorian survey course. Not exactly a fount of knowledge, but I at least vaguely knew who they were. The art's identifiable, of course. It's very pretty and I've always liked it. So I went into this book with only the vaguest idea about the subject matter.

Lizzie Siddal was a girl plucked from a hat shop and turned into a supermodel. She was the love of poet/artist/Renaissance man Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a very naughty boy who liked the ladies in a big way. He loved her, it seems pretty apparent, but he spent all of their relationship promising to marry her then reneging. Not exactly honorable, but I don't really think we have all the details on that. There's not a lot of surviving correspondence, and relationships are way more complicated than anyone knows save the two principles. Dante did have the roving eye, but Lizzie had a lot of issues herself. She couldn't have been easy to live with.

Lizzie seemed inclined toward being neurotic, and more than once, when she found she wasn't getting her way she'd starve herself until Dante caved in and did whatever it was she wanted. Except marry her, at least until after she'd really almost died. Then he finally married her, she got pregnant and lost the baby, and it was a downhill slide until her eventual suicide.

It's generally well known that Rossetti buried his last book of poetry with Lizzie, declaring he'd never write again, and then several years later he thought better of that and had a friend of his retrieve the book. The legend goes that Lizzie still looked perfect and her flowing, red hair filled the coffin, but I'm thinking it wasn't nearly that pretty.
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