Lizzie Siddal: Face of the Pre-Raphaelites

Walker & Company, NY

Lizzie Siddal was a nineteenth-century phenomenon: a working-class girl who rose from obscurity to become one of the most recognisable faces in Queen Victoria’s Britain. A poet, artist, artist’s model and muse, Lizzie was a pivotal figure of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. The artists she inspired include Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais, William Holman Hunt and Walter Deverell; her patron was John Ruskin who described her as comparing her to J.M.W. Turner and G.F. Watts. Lizzie was also the lover and then wife of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and sister-in-law of the poet, Christina Rossetti.

The Pre-Raphaelites and the ways in which they interacted and worked have been a fascination of mine for as long as I can remember. Researching the life of Lizzie Siddal usually overlooked in favour of her male colleagues was intriguing and rewarding, like being a Victorian detective.

Study for Ophelia by John Everett Millias

Lizzie Siddal: Face of the Pre-Raphaelites is published by Walker & Company (a division of Bloomsbury Publishing) in New York. You can buy Lizzie Siddal: Face of the Pre-Raphaelites from your local bookshop or from by clicking here. Lizzie was published in the UK in 2004 and chosen to be Book of the Week on the prestigious radio station BBC Radio 4. You can also view the UK page. For many years, Lizzie’s story has been jealously guarded by academics and written about in a dry, dusty style. My publishers commissioned me to write a factual, non-fiction book that reads like a novel.

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Here’s what people have said about it:

Lucinda Hawksley paints a moving portrait of one of history’s great tragic beauties, the ‘stunner’ with the face that launched some of Victorian England’s most enchanting images. Lizzie Siddal is at once a story of doomed lovers, an exploration of the lurid world of Victorian morality, and a superb introduction to one of the most character-rich periods in the history of art.
Ross King, author of The Judgement of Paris

Writing with authority, energy, and covert wit and indignation, Hawksley offers a fresh and affecting perspective on this still scandalous and tragic story. She relishes the strong personalities involved and their intriguing milieu and subtly guides readers to consider timeless questions pertaining to beauty and power, love and ambition.
Donna Seaman in Booklist

“reading your book reminds me of how we so often mistakenly dismiss past lives from other centuries as not being as interesting , or tormented, or full of life as our own. rich full lives sometimes seem to exist only in our own contemporary scenarios,(were all so self-involved!) which obviously isn’t the case. and you prove it! what a great story, and the details are pretty remarkable as well.
Joe Hurley, lead singer of Rogue’s March

Writer and scholar Lucinda Hawksley (Charles Dickens’ great-great-great granddaughter) provides a compassionate portrait of this muse who was also a talented artist and poet in her own right. Red-haired, temperamental Siddal was not a typical Victorian beauty, but her face and manner nevertheless lifted her from poverty to become London’s society darling…. Fine research gives Hawksley’s portrait vital tension as she examines Rossetti’s milieu, revealing unrest beneath the carefree, bohemian surfaces of the pre-Raphaelites’ lives. Exploring the difficult existence of  the world’s first ‘supermodel, she captures her subject’s erotic, erratic and haunting essence.

A truly extraordinary achievement. The icon takes flesh before our eyes. Lucinda Hawksley’s sympathetic scholarship has produced a portrait of Pre-Raphaelitism’s most celebrated face, which is as gripping as a romantic novel. but it is also the result of meticulous research which throws fascinating new light on the Rossettis and their circle.
A.N. Wilson, author of The Victorians

A seductive biography. Gaining in tragedy the story is irresistible… Glimpses of this strange, beautiful woman illuminate the book.
Francis Spalding in The Sunday Times

A story of epic despair, told artfully by Hawksley in a book that will chill readers to the bone. Outstanding.
The Good Book Guide

Lucinda Hawksley marvellously brings to life the career, friendships and the tortured relationships of this unhappy young woman. Spotted at the age of 20 working in a hat shop, Siddal quickly became one of the faces of the 1850s … but it was Rossetti who was to monopolise her life. In her fast-paced text Hawksley brilliantly evokes their strange relationship.
Vivien Hamilton Glasgow Museums Preview

This poignant book is all the more powerful because it’s true. Life is often stranger than fiction. It’s a great story told by a great writer.
Brian Stewart in Kent on Sunday

This mesmerising biography gives life to an icon, and reads as grippingly as any rags-to-rich novel.
The Mail on Sunday

Lucinda Hawksley … breathes life into the images of Lizzie, frozen in time in galleries around the world
Cherry Butler in NADFAS Review

Hawksley raises perturbing questions about how a woman’s status can fail to translate into control over her own life.
The Guardian

We’ve heard all the tabloid traumas surrounding models … but hark back a century and Siddal’s story will have you gripped…. A fluid, contemporary classic.
Sarah Phillis on Sky

This vivid and haunting biography at last brings Lizzie Siddal to the forefront of her relationship with Rossetti and the Pre-Raphaelites.
Peak Advertiser

This is such a great book. I couldn’t put it down and read it in one go. If you’re looking for a present or escapism that’s not fluff  this is the one to buy.
An reader

Having a great interest in the world of the Pre-Raphaelites already, I thought at best it would be an interesting read  but it is such a well researched and absorbing book I could not put it down. Lizzie is seen here as human, her life the tragedy of it … such is the success of this book. You will not be disappointed if you read it.

An reader

It didn’t disappoint. I read it in a single sitting … the cast of well-known characters (including William Morris, Ford Madox Brown and Christina Rossetti) come vividly to life. Most engaging of all is the central character of Lizzie herself.
An reader

© Lucinda Hawksley 2021. Last updated 13 December 2021.