This is a scene in the St James’s Workhouse in London. By this time the inmates in these grim establishments were mainly the old and the sick. Herkomer was one of the leading Social Realists who concentrated on urban poverty during the 1870s although in fact this painting conveys a relatively happy impression of institutional old age. The painting is based on an engraving by Herkomer in The Graphic - the magazine generally used by the Social Realists for their illustrations - and that engraving conveys a much bleaker impression of workhouse life. The violent recession into depth and the dramatic lighting effects lend, however, a sinister air to the picture.