I definitely relate to the pre Raphaelite women and the muses in a lot of the paintings. Pale, red headed, blue eyed, and somewhat haunted women and often in fashion shoots I’ve been depicted as a pre Raphaelite woman. Just physically we have a lot of similarities. My name is Karen Elson and I’m introducing John Everett Millais’ the wonderful and beautiful ‘Ophelia’.
Being a model, I can really relate to Elizabeth Siddall and what goes into creating any work of art. What I heard is that she sat in a cold bath tub, he only put oil mats underneath the bath to keep her warm but then he was so sort of engrossed in painting that those oil lamps would go out and she ultimately was sitting in a cold bathtub. I heard that she eventually got really sick from that. As a model, I can relate because a lot of the time on shoots you have to do things that are very uncomfortable but you’re doing it because there’s this real connection that you have with the art of what it is. I’m sure Elizabeth Siddall had the same relationship to Millais. I think there is an interesting parallel about our life.
She also came from a working class family like myself and having potentially a chance encounter with somebody who profoundly changes your life, not just because you’re the muse sitting in a bathtub or with your eyebrows shaved and bright red hair in a carousel factory in New Jersey, there’s more to it than that. There’s real depth in that relationship and what it does to the muse.
When I first became a model and when I had my defining shoot with myself, it was changing the mould of what was beautiful in a woman. Fashion in my opinion has defined the idea of beauty. I can definitely relate to her being the idea of that, you know, changing in her time what society viewed as a beautiful woman. I find it interesting that fashion and art have that same process.