Pre-Raphaelites in Love

Gay Daly, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $24.95 (468p) ISBN 978-0-89919-450-9
Behind the dreamlike women in Pre-Raphaelite paintings stood the artists' flesh-and-blood models with whom they often became romantically involved. Dante Gabriel Rossetti transformed shopkeeper Elizabeth Siddal into his saintly Beatrice and slept with barmaid Annie Miller. By marrying teenaged Jane Burden, William Morris tried to seize hold of one of the medieval maidens in his paintings; he projected grace, charm, uncanny wisdom onto her shyness, but she felt emotionally trapped and the marriage broke down. Daly, who has taught women's studies, presents an often touching, sometimes hilarious, always engrossing portrait of the high-minded Victorian Brotherhood, their romances and their almost incestuous cross-connections. The men do not come off well: William Holman Hunt's arrogant attempt to remake flirtatious Annie Miller into a well-read lady reminds one of the Pygmalion-Galatea myth. John Ruskin trivialized and condescended to his wife Effie Gray; she later married sexually demanding John Everett Millais, who made her a breeder in an endless round of pregnancies. This is amorous biography at its witty, perceptive best. Illustrated. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1989
Release date: 01/01/1989
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