ABSTRACT

By the later 1840s fine art offered singular possibilities for a professional career. Harriet Taylor was convinced that the 'modes of earning their living' open to her contemporaries' (with the sole exception of artists) consist only of poorly paid and hardly worked occupations, all the professions, mercantile clerical, legal & medical, as well as all posts being monopolised by men'.4 Unitarian beliefs and class-specific convictions of the value of work powered feminism's push for paid employment for middle-class women in the following decade.5 Amateur accomplishment in drawing and watercolours could be turned to advantage. Fine art offered independence, economic autonomy and, in the words of Anna Mary Howitt, 'a life of aspiration', characterised by 'strength of determination', 'earnestness and fixedness of purpose' and 'largeness of vision'.6