Technique used for 'The Stonebreaker'
Brett's younger brother Edwin modelled for the boy and the view is of Box Hill near Dorking, about 23 miles from London as the milestone in the picture indicates. Brett combined traditional landscape-painting practice, which represents distance in a blue haze, with a vibrantly bright foreground.
A far greater sense of space pervades this work than is usual in Pre-Raphaelite landscapes. He painted on a white ground, but in addition mixed white with colour, thus departing from the usual Pre-Raphaelite practice of using pure unmixed colour.
Ruskin took Brett under his rather authoritarian wing and gave him advice while he was painting his next picture, 'The Val d'Aosta' (1858, Tate Gallery). Subsequently, Brett moved away from small microscopically observed works towards a broader manner using larger canvases.
Two other works by Brett at Walker Art Gallery, 'Rocks - Scilly' 1873 and 'Trevose Head' 1900, indicate this transformation in his style. Throughout his life, Brett remained essentially a landscape painter and even during his brief flirtation with Pre- Raphaelitism, he was never attracted by heavy moralising or ponderous medieval subjects.
His scientific interest in landscape, particularly in geology, appears to have been the dominant factor in influencing his decision to paint for a while in a precise Pre-Raphaelite manner.