Artist biography

English painter, Model and poet. She was introduced to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood by Walter Howell Deverell. She modelled for William Holman Hunt, appearing in a number of his paintings dating from 1850, and then for John Everett Millais's Ophelia (1852; London, Tate). By 1852 she had met Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and by the end of the year she sat only to him.

Siddal took up drawing and painting in 1852 while in close association with the Pre-Raphaelites and concentrated on medieval literary themes and portraits. She often worked closely with Rossetti, whom she married in 1860. Her early works were mainly illustrations to poems by Tennyson. Both Rossetti and Ford Madox Brown supported and admired her work. In 1855 John Ruskin was shown Siddal's pictures and was deeply impressed. He offered to become her patron in an arrangement by which he provided financial support while she, in return, gave him the bulk of her work.

From 1854 Siddal suffered from increasingly bad health and progressive addiction to laudanum. By the time of her marriage, she was extremely ill. She continued to produce oil paintings, watercolours and drawings and worked on the decorations for William Morris's Red House. She also wrote poetry, much of it on the favoured Victorian themes of love and death. When she died, Rossetti buried most of his poems, in manuscript form, alongside her body in Highgate cemetery. In 1869 he permitted her exhumation in order to retrieve these, an action that earned him considerable criticism.

V. Hunt: The Wife of Rossetti (London, 1932)
J.Marsh: Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood (London, 1985)


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