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The Stonebreaker

John Brett, 1857 - 1858 painted

WAG 1632

About this object

This painting shows a young boy breaking stones for road mending, a job often given to paupers. The landscape is Box Hill near Dorking, Surrey. The painting seems to reflect the critic John Ruskin's (1819-1900) ideal of truth to nature as well as the artist’s interest in geology.

When ‘The Stonebreaker’ was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1858 it was admired for its accurate detail and the delicacy of its finish. Ruskin commented: "This after Lewis's is simply the most perfect piece of painting with respect to touch, in the Academy this year; in some points of precision it goes beyond anything the Pre-Raphaelites have done yet. I know of no such thistledown, no such chalk hills and elm trees, no such natural pieces of far away cloud in any of their works."

Object specifics

  • Artist(s)
    John Brett (British: English, born:08 December 1831, died:07 January 1902)
  • Date
    1857 - 1858 painted
  • Materials
    Oil; Canvas
  • Measurements
    canvas/support: 51.3 cm x 68.5 cm
  • Physical description
    A young boy wearing a red scarf and white shirt is breaking flint stone at the roadside in bright sunlight. A little white dog plays on the left and a knapsack is placed beside the boy on the right. There is hills and a clear sky in the distance only disrupted by a single tree stump on the right.
  • Related people
    James Barrow (Previous owner); Sarah Ann Barrow (Previous owner); Branch and Leete (Previous owner); John Brett (Artist/maker)
  • Other number(s)
    WAG Inventory Number: 1632
  • Credit line
    Bequeathed to the Walker Art Gallery by Mrs Sarah Ann Barrow in 1918
  • Location
    Walker Art Gallery, Room 06
  • Collection
    From the Walker Art Gallery collections

Ownership

Previous owners

  • Sarah Ann Barrow

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Probably inherited from James Barrow
    Owned until: 1918
    Disposal method: Bequeathed to the Walker Art Gallery in 1918
  • James Barrow

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: Unknown or unrecorded
    Disposal method: Probably bequeathed to Sarah Ann Barrow
  • Branch and Leete

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1878
    Disposal method: Thomas Avison sale, Hanover Gallery, Liverpool 29 January 1878

Inscriptions

Item inscriptions

  • Inscription text: John Brett 1857-8
    Inscription method:
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location: Front; Lower right
  • Inscription text: LONDON 23
    Inscription method:
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location: Painting; Lower left
  • Inscription text: 'Stone Breaker' / John Brett / 34 A Gloucester Rd / Regents Park London
    Inscription method: Label
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location: Backing
  • Inscription text: John Brett (R.A) / The Stone Breaker / lent by James Barrow Esq / of Beach Lawn...Waterloo / nr. Liverpool
    Inscription method: Label
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location: Backing
  • Inscription text: C 48
    Inscription method: Label
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location: Backing
Object view = Fine Art
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