Stanley Anderson – The Stone Breaker

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Signed in pencil – Stanley Anderson [lower right] – further inscribed – The Stone-Breaker (line engraving) – [lower left ]. Engraving with black ink on cream wove paper. Mounted. Executed In 1940 and published by P. & D. Colnaghi (4 gns). Very fine signed proof impression with crisp clarity of line as issued by the Print Collectors’ Club, with the Club’s monogram in the plate. From the only edition of 109 signed proofs.
Literature: Robert Meyrick And Harry Heuser, Stanley Anderson. Prints: A Catalogue Raisonné, London: Royal Academy of Arts, 2015, Page 230, No 226: Reproduced: RA Illustrated 1940 (p. 72): Exhibited: RA 1940 (no. 1299); CAGM 1949 (no. 29).


At the end of the 1920’s Stanley Anderson moved away from the use of drypoint as his primary printmaking technique, favouring instead the linear clarity of pure line engraving. During the following two decades he used this technique to produce an outstanding body of remarkable images depicting the traditional crafts and activities of rural England. The Stone-Breaker is at the heart of this body of work; dating from 1940, this outstanding study of a rural labourer was chosen by the Print Collectors’ Club as a presentation plate to represent one of the year’s finest examples of original printmaking in England.

Melancholy is tempered with anger, with a sense that steadfast manuel work – including the artist’s own efforts – may be co-opted and corrupted in an age of destruction. Driving this home is the engraved inscription Anderson borrowed from the nineteenth-century humorist Thomas Hood, whose poem ‘The Broken Dish’ imagines the subjects of a willow-pattern plate as the hapless victims of a catastrophic event beyond their control. The quote from Hood which Stanley Anderson gives beneath the image reads “What’s life but full of care and doubt, with all its fine humanities”. The newspaper which lies on the ground in front of the weary workmen reads “Christian Times. Power politics and sentimentality breed greed and national idolatry, hence war. Christ’s way, the way to peace”.

‘The Broken Dish’ A poem by Thomas Hood

What’s life but full of care and doubt
With all its fine humanities,
With parasols we walk about,
Long pigtails, and such vanities.

We plant pomegranate trees and things,
And go in gardens sporting,
With toys and fans of peacocks’ wings,
To painted ladies courting.

We gather flowers of every hue,
And fish in boats for fishes,
Build summer-houses painted blue, –
But life’s as frail as dishes!

Walking about their groves of trees,
Blue bridges and blue rivers,
How little thought them two Chinese,
They’d both be smashed to shivers!

Additional information


Plate: 18.2 cm x 14 cm.


32.4 cm x 25.8 cm.

Frame or Mount

Mount: 20 7/8 in x 16 in. (53 cm x 40.6 cm.)


Anderson, Stanley (1884-1966)

Anderson, (Alfred Charles) Stanley (1884–1966), printmaker and watercolour painter. For seven years Anderson trained as a professional engraver in his father’s workshop. He was in his mid-twenties when he was awarded a scholarship to study printmaking at the Royal College of Art in London. He made a name for himself during the revival of line engraving as a mode of original graphic expression, when it had become all but obsolete in 1920s Britain. He also taught etching at the Goldsmiths’ College. By 1941, Anderson was a full member of the Royal Academy of Arts. He initially achieved fame as an etcher and drypointist in the renaissance of British etching during and after World War I. In 1929 he turned his skills to engraving on a copper plate, and he will chiefly be remembered for his engravings of English rural crafts dating from 1932, for which he was made CBE in 1951. Market scenes and street views that recall the Edwardian age. Rural scenes that have turned into sprawling conurbations. And yet, Anderson did not retreat into a romanticised past. He commented on the dramatic changes he observed in British society. To him, those changes were harmful to the human spirit. He saw modernity as a return to ‘barbarism in ethics, childish perversity in the arts and baser ambitions in living.