Frederick Walker painted this after seeing gypsies on Clapham Common, south London. He tried to use the gypsies as models but found that they had moved on. Instead his sister Polly posed for the standing woman. The background landscape was painted in the open air at Beddington, near Croydon.Walker originally made The Vagrants as an illustration in the magazine Once a Week. He worked it up into an oil painting to show at the Royal Academy. It failed to find a buyer, but it had a great influence on younger artists who specialised in social-realist subjects.