Joachim was the father of the Virgin Mary, according to the apocrypha of the Bible. Here Joachim decides to separate from his family, taking his flock of sheep with him.
Stanley Spencer had seen a reproduction of a fresco of this subject by the fourteenth-century Italian painter, Giotto. He imagined the same event taking place in a favourite path in Cookham. The simplicity of the design gives it a feeling of mystery, appropriate to the way the main figure of Joachim appears secretly around a wall.