This pastel is one of the artist's most beautiful portrayals of a woman bathing. All the characteristics of Manet's style are there: a special blend of spontaneity, freshness combined with precise composition, and a taste for light, curving lines against a background of horizontals. The background is in fact divided up into subtly coloured bands, formed by the mirror, the dressing table and the floral cretonne cloth.
A large metal tub, always used by Degas in these scenes, occupies the lower part of the pastel. But whereas Degas' models usually appear to be unaware of the viewer, here the model is unconcerned at being observed by the painter. She knows that her nudity, even though imperfect, will attract a friendly or even tender glance.
After Manet's death, Degas produced his stunning series of women bathing, where he used plunging perspectives and more sophisticated poses. But it was Degas who, after 1877, first started to produce less innocent scenes of women washing, painted in brothels. It is difficult to determine from that point, which of the two artists had the greater influence on the other. Degas' sarcasm is absent from Manet's work; it is Bonnard's gentle scenes of women at their toilette that are the real precursors of this Woman in a Tub.