This astonishing study on cardboard is a sketch for a lithograph published under the title Lassitude in the album Elles published in 1896. One can see a woman lying on her back on an unmade bed. The series Elles illustrated the artist's close acquaintance with brothels. He frequented these establishments from 1892 onwards, and was happy to move in permanently in order to observe the girls at his leisure.
Unlike the Naturalist writers of his time, Zola, Maupassant, Huysmans and the Goncourt brothers, Toulouse-Lautrec looked at the world of prostitution without making any moral judgement. Rather than painting professional models in conventional poses, he preferred to sketch these ladies at unselfconscious and spontaneous moments.
La peinture à l'essence, a fluid and rapid medium, is used here to produce an almost instantaneous picture. The model, indistinctly drawn, has been captured as she is, in a position of complete abandon, with her black stockings contrasting with the folds in the faintly drawn sheets. Toulouse-Lautrec, the painter of modern life, here anticipates the Expressionist figures of Gustave Klimt and Egon Schiele, as well as those of Picasso's blue period.