In the twenty-first century, even those who do not know Lizzie Siddal’s name will recognize her face: she is Millais’s doomed Ophelia and Rossetti’s beatified Beatrice in two of the nineteenth century’s most famous paintings. As Lucinda Hawksley explores in Lizzie Siddal, Face of the Pre-Raphaelites, Siddal’s fame was a remarkable phenomenon: in a time when she was the opposite of the Victorian beauty (she was red-haired, quite tall, and painfully thin), she nonetheless scaled the social ranks to become the unlikely ideal.
A pivotal figure in London’s artistic world of the mid-nineteenth century, Lizzie’s short life ended in a delirium of opium. In this, the first full work devoted solely to Lizzie—her austere beginnings, quick rise to fame, and tragic end—Hawksley brings together the worlds of art and literature with style and verve. Lizzie Siddal was not merely the Pre-Raphaelites’ obsession and muse, she was a talented poet and artist in her own right. Her tragic and haunting life story serves as a cautionary tale, offering many parallels to the modern-day world of art, fashion, beauty, and our obsession with what we hold to be the ideal.