Major Department



College of Liberal Arts & Sciences


BA (Bachelor of Arts)

Session and Year of Graduation

Spring 2021

Honors Major Advisor

Colleen Kelley

Thesis Mentor

Florence Boos


This thesis demonstrates that Elizabeth Siddal and Jane Morris, two muses of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, used their creative talent, writing, and direct and indirect actions to combat the Victorian notions held by the Brotherhood and inspire other female artists. The Brotherhood was begun in England in 1848, with aspiring artists Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman-Hunt, John Everett Millais, and four others redirecting their output against the teachings of the British Royal Academy. Rather than upholding the High Renaissance artist Raphael as the ultimate painter and role model, Rossetti and his cohorts set out to prove the Academy wrong, basing their art on what came before Raphael, using ballads, poems, murals, and more as a source of inspiration. Despite receiving praise for paintings like Ophelia (1852) and Bocca Baciata (1859), the men conformed to the patriarchal society of their day, presenting beautiful faces that were impassive and in need of rescue. This same dynamic came to life within the Brotherhood’s studios, with their models being considered damsels in distress while the male artists donned the role of knight in shining armor. Initially models to Rossetti, Holman-Hunt, and Millais, Siddal and Morris took it upon themselves to break out of the mold of Victorian muse through paint, pen, and needle. This thesis contends that Siddal and Morris demonstrated their own agency through their art and words, recruiting other women within their community to create the PreRaphaelite Sisterhood. In drawings like The Lady of Shalott (1853) and poems like “True Love,” Siddal would insert a female-driven narrative into the Pre-Raphaelite sphere while Morris, in presenting embroideries like The Homestead and the Forest quilt (1890) and private letters, would circumvent the idea that only the Brotherhood could be artistically successful. Overall, both women redefined themselves and what it meant to be a Pre-Raphaelite.


art history, pre-raphaelite, muse, artists, women's history

Total Pages

41 pages


Copyright © 2020 Alyssa Grady