Look at the incredible detail of the landscape! It's this and his vibrant color schemes which associate John Brett with the Pre-Raphaelites. The Stonebreaker is his most-known piece and was praised by critic John Ruskin. The background depicts Box Hill, where a slightly disastrous picnic takes place in Austen's Emma.
What strikes me is amidst all this natural beauty the young boy is so focused on his task. As you can imagine, it was long, tiring work breaking up the stones, which were then used to fill pot-holes in the roads. If you look at just the bottom half of the painting, there's so much surrounding him he looks constricted. Although his little canine friend seems to be having a marvelous time playing with his hat.
The milestone to the left-- perhaps the lad is ambitious, he has dreams of travelling? And I wonder if that gnarled old tree, with new shoots of branches and leaves may just be a glimmer of hope, something is changing. Maybe it reflects the coming changes for the working-class?
Note: the wonderful thing about Art, as in Literature, is there are so many ways to interpret a work. This is just one idea. I would love it if you shared what you see.