Death Imitates Art: the Mortal/Immortal Body of Elizabeth Siddall
Join Death Party Philadelphia for our very first meeting of 2019, where Kelly Crodian-Shuff will recount a true gothic tale of close encounters with artistic temperaments, doomed romance, and a tragic muse disturbed from her grave. This highly illustrated and immersive presentation will examine the enigmatic figure of Elizabeth Siddall, model and muse to the Pre-Raphaelite artists of the Victorian era and famously dead wife of painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
Siddall was idealized in paint and poetry by Rossetti both before and after her death and was notoriously depicted as Ophelia in John Everett Millais’ iconic painting of Hamlet’s doomed lover. Although an artist and poet in her own right, Siddall’s own voice has long been eclipsed by the uncanny way in which her own story seems to blend with those of the withering maidens she embodied on the canvasses of male artists. However, unlike Ophelia or Dante’s Beatrice, Elizabeth Siddall was a very real person; one whose true self has been irrevocably lost to time, even as she continues to inspire art, music, and poetry 157 years after her death.
Our discussion of the Tale of Elizabeth Siddall will explore what happens to a person’s image once it has passed permanently outside of their control. Is it possible for the dead to have agency? How does the objectification of certain bodies in life lead to exploitation in death? And most importantly, is the work of a muse ever really done?
Kelly Crodian-Shuff is a longtime Death Party Philadelphia contributor with a background in Women’s and Gender Studies who really likes Kate Bush. She currently works as a nonprofit administrator and lives in West Philly with her spouse and cat.