Elizabeth Siddal is remembered as a Pre-Raphaelite supermodel and the muse and wife of Gabriel Rossetti. She is cast as a tragic heroine much like the Ophelia she modelled in the renowned Millais painting. But Elizabeth Siddal: Her Story overturns this myth. ‘Lizzie’ is presented as an aspirational and independent woman, artist and poet who knew what she wanted and was not afraid to let it be known.
With extraordinary stories, including previously undiscovered details of Siddal’s journeys across the UK and to the south of France, Jan Marsh reclaims Siddal’s narrative from the historical record. She brings new perspective to the post-natal, mental trauma Elizabeth suffered after a stillbirth. Furthermore, she casts new light on the renowned story of Siddal’s grave being exhumed for Rossetti’s poems.
Jan Marsh explores the finer, little known details of Siddal’s life, including her four months at art school in Sheffield, which Rossetti’s brother always denied. In addition to this, few will know how Siddal was often regarded as difficult and ungrateful.
A beautiful production, this illustrated book contains many of Siddal's own images which feature alongside Rossetti's at Tate Britain.
Historical record tends to forget or misremember women, but with Elizabeth Siddal: Her Story, Jan Marsh forces us to take a closer look and see a very different picture. Siddal was not passive and lacking in agency; she was a woman, artist and poet with a strong mind, flourishing career and an admirable talent.
Jan Marsh is a biographer and curator who pioneered the feminist understanding of women in the artistic circle around the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. She followed this with individual life stories and scholarly studies that bring hitherto neglected women into the historical record, together with ground-breaking exhibitions, notably Pre-Raphaelite Sisters at the National Portrait Gallery in 2019-20. In Elizabeth Siddal: Her Story she presents a radical new account of the celebrated Pre-Raphaelite model and artist, who died tragically young.