Elizabeth Siddal and the Pre-Raphaelites,  william michael rossetti

William Micheal Rossetti on Elizabeth Siddal

had some little while before seen and praised some of the painter’s works. He struck up a close friendship with my brother, and
undertook to buy, in a general way, whatever the latter might have to offer him from time to time: the prices to be paid were not lavish, but they were such as Rossetti, at that stage of his practice and repute, was highly pleased to accept. Through Rossetti, Ruskin knew Miss Siddal before the end of
1854. He took the greatest pleasure in her art-work, present and prospective. She visited at his house, with Rossetti, in April 1855. He “said she was a noble, glorious creature, and his father said that by her look and manner she might have been a countess.”   In March of this year John Ruskin (as Rossetti wrote) “saw and bought on the spot every scrap of design hitherto produced by Miss Siddal. He declared that they were far better than mine, or almost than anyone’s, and seemed quite wild with delight at getting them. He is going to have them
splendidly mounted, and bound together in gold.” The price which Dante Gabriel named for the lot was certainly modest, £25: Ruskin made it £30. In May of this same year Ruskin settled £150 per annum on Miss Siddal, taking, up to that value, any works which she might produce. This arrangement held good, if I am not mistaken, up to 1857, but was then allowed to lapse, with reluctance on the generous writer’s part, upon the ground that the state of her health
did not admit of her meeting her share in the engagement in a continuous and adequate manner. Ruskin called Miss Siddal Ida (from Tennyson’s “Princess”), and befriended her to the utmost of his power in various ways—getting her to visit Oxford, and place herself under the advice of  Dr. Acland who pronounced (and I fancy with a good deal of truth) that the essence of her malady was “mental power long pent up and lately overtaxed.” It is too clear, however, that the germs of consumption were present, with neuralgia, and (according to one opinion) curvature of the spine.  One result of Ruskin’s admiration of  Miss Siddal’s designs was that Tennyson and his wife heard of the matter at the time when the well-known “Illustrated Tennyson” was in preparation; and they both “wished her exceedingly to join” in the work: “Mrs. Tennyson wrote immediately to Moxon about it, declaring that she had rather pay for Miss Siddal’s designs herself than not have them in the book.” Her drawings, reasonably controlled by Rossetti,
would really have been a credit to the undertaking; but, whatever the reason, she was not enlisted by Moxon. Perhaps he thought the fastidiousness of Rossetti over his wood-blocks was quite enough without being reinforced by that of an unknown female ally.

I confess, I adore the idea of Lizzie’s work “splendidly mounted, and bound together in gold”.

Next, the only public exhibition in which Lizzie’s work was shown and we have a glimpse of who Lizzie met socially. Also, he touches apon when Lizzie met his mother and Lizzie’s famed ill-health:

I hardly think that Miss Siddal ever exhibited any of her paintings or drawings, except in the summer of 1857, when a small semi-public collection was got together by various artists in Russell Place, Fitzroy Square. People came to call this “the Preraphaelite Exhibition,” although no such name was put forward by the exhibiting artists. Miss Siddal sent Clerk Saunders, Sketches from Browning and Tennyson, We are Seven, The Haunted Tree, and a Study of a Head (I think her own portrait). Madox Brown, Holman-Hunt, Millais, Rossetti, C. Allston Collins, William Davis, Arthur Hughes, Windus, Joseph Wolf, Boyce, and some
others, were contributors. Clerk Saunders was also included in an American Exhibition of British Art, New York, in the same year, 1857.
Rossetti made Miss Siddal known to several friends of his, all of whom treated her with the utmost cordiality or even affection: William and Mary Howitt, and their daughter Anna Mary (then a painter of whom high hopes were entertained); Miss Barbara Leigh Smith (Mrs. Bodichon); Miss Bessie Parkes (Madame
Belloc); William Allingham; the sculptor, Alexander Munro; Madox Brown and his family. Mrs. Brown, who had previously had some knowledge of Mrs. Siddal, naturally became very intimate with Lizzie. At a later date there were Burne-Jones, William Morris, and Alexander Gilchrist, and their respective wives. In Paris, in the autumn of 1855, she met for a few minutes Robert Browning: and Rossetti showed him the design from “Pippa Passes,” with which the poet “was delighted beyond measure.” My mother did not meet Lizzie in person until April 1855: between that date and the time when my brother’s marriage took place,
they encountered from time to time, not frequently. Dante Gabriel had at one period a fancy that Christina was not well affected to the unparagoned Guggum: in this there was in fact next to nothing,

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

One Comment

  • mark stevens

    Fascinating article,thanks for bringing it to our attention.Anything that adds to my knowledge of this wonderful woman is so gratefully received.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.