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Line engraving had risen to the heights of technical excellence in England in the first half of the 19th century, but, being used largely to reproduce paintings, it was avoided by creative artists. When photography replaced engraving for reproductions later in the century, engraving and all forms of hand printing enjoyed revivals among artists.
Anderson frequently found his subjects amongst England's old, down-trodden and destitute. He would envision them in "conversation pieces," in which two or more persons were shown in a state of dramatic or psychological relation to each other.