Sculpture Journal

‘Art workers’: education and professional advancement in sculpture and the stone trades c.1850-1900

Sculpture Journal (2012), 21, (2), 119–130.


This article considers intersections between sculpture and the stone trades through one of the principal methods of career advancement - educational achievement. It looks in depth at the previously neglected topic of how stonemasons learned their craft in Britain between c.1850-1900, and uses pedagogical texts to explore workshop learning and self-education. Drawing on a number of case studies, including the careers of Henry Broadhurst (1840-1911), William Brindley (1832-1919), Joseph Barlow Robinson (1820-83) and the writings of George Henry Blagrove (1851-1928), the essay unveils the professional identity of the stonemason and the impact of study on career development. The article concludes with an assessment of the role of larger workshops (such as Farmer and Brindley and H. H. Martyn) as well as formal art school study, particularly William Silver Frith's (1850-1924) modelling classes at the South London Technical School of Art, in enabling the most ambitious stonemasons to make the transition from the humble workshop to fine art studio.

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Author details

Compton, Ann