Sickert was a prominent member of the Camden Town Group and was interested in urban culture, painting the life and struggles of the working-class in a new and modern London at the turn of the century. He often painted in series and produced lots of works depicting working class women and prostitutes in bedrooms or on beds. He became fascinated by the murder of the prostitute Emily Dimmock in 1907 which became known as 'The Camden Town Murder'. For Sickert the event highlighted the plight of the lower classes. He produced a series in relation to the Camden town murder and an oil of the same title which is also known as 'What shall we do to pay the rent' (1908). This work became synonymous with Sickert's values as an artist and is one of his most well-known paintings.
The Strachey family were an important family within the Bloomsbury group, including notably Lytton Strachey, who's portrait by Duncan Grant also appears in this catalogue (Lot 443).