A veritable hymn to voluptuousness, The Indolent Woman is a painting which relies on contrasts: the title already clashes with the young woman's posture. Her body with its tense muscles – the left foot is literally hooked on to the right thigh – belies any idea of rest or laziness. Similarly, the modest gesture of the arm across the breasts is contradicted by the spread thighs. Sinuous lines run throughout the composition, materialised by the dark shadows on the sheets still bearing the undulating line of the bodies and the heavy jumble of the bedclothes. The electric blue "smoke" drifting across the woman's thigh and ankle and the sumptuous dark hair spread across the bed accentuate the painting's erotic charge.
This woman spread out for all to see after lovemaking is the epitome of unveiled intimacy, violent, passionate and sombre and, in the end, very "fin de siècle". We are also struck by the modernity of the composition seen from above, with its monumental bed which seems to tip towards the viewer. The woman's body, gnawed by shadows, has a tonic vibrant texture which gives it a strong timeless presence.
This is a crucial work in Bonnard's career because it is one of the first nudes he painted, previously showing little interest in the theme. It can be compared with two other canvases from the same period: Blue Nude from the Kaganovitch collection and Man and Woman.
After seeing this painting, the famous art dealer and publisher Ambroise Vollard asked Bonnard to illustrate a collection of Paul Verlaine's poetry, Parallèlement, which was published in 1900.