The south east of England is primarily agricultural with a rich archaeological heritage, but in the past two centuries has been increasingly dominated by the urban expansion and economic draw of London. The Home Counties (those adjacent to London) are especially threatened by suburban growth, checked in part by the Metropolitan Green Belt. Proximity to the capital has made the region's artistic attractions more easily accessible to London-based artists than the more dramatic landscapes of Wales, the Lake District and Scotland, for example.  

In the agricultural heartland artists could find picturesque villages and a traditional way of life that, before the coming of the railway, had been unchanged for centuries. In the mid-nineteenth century even Cranbrook in Kent, 50 miles from London, could become a summer home for a colony of artists. Many London artists built substantial houses in the country. The coast line, with its productive fishing ports, busy naval establishments and holiday resorts, has also long provided a popular source of subjects.