Of course, once a woman married, it was also expected that she would give up her art in favor of the pursuit of "family matters". The very term "amateur" is of French derivation and is not found in general use until the latter part of the 18th Century. Indeed, it may well have been coined to cast a respectable light upon those women who did NOT choose to give up their art when they gave up their maidenhood. But this euphemism for painting women was not broad enough to contain the likes of Impressionists Berthe Morisot or Mary Cassatt who insisted upon moving in the same circles as their male counterparts as professional artists.
Strangely enough however, a generation before, another French artist of the female persuasion might well be said to have been one of the first of her sex to count herself a professional. Her name was Rosa Bonheur. Born in 1822, her rural landscapes, painted with an almost photographic realism, were derived from life in the French provinces. Her father was a socialist drawing instructor and her interests seemed primarily centered upon farm animals which she studied from zoology books. No demure young easel painter, her canvases usually measured six to eight FEET. She is often compared to the writer, George Sand, who adopted both a male name and dress. One of Bonheur's best paintings, Plowing in the Nivernais (1849), may well have been inspired by a line from Sand's The Devil's Pond. "But what caught my attention was a truly beautiful sight, a noble subject for a painter...a handsome young man was driving a magnificent team of oxen."