Eugène Carrière started his career in the Salon in Paris in 1876. Until the 1880s he mainly exhibited portraits. With Intimacy also called The Big Sister, presented at the Salon in 1889, the critics hailed him as the painter of domestic life and mother and child figures. Yet, although the painting represents an intimate scene from his private life – his wife and their two daughters, Elise and probably Nelly – Carrière goes beyond this simple subject. He explores a metaphor of organic life and universal Nature, which lifts his work into quite a different register and brings it near the Symbolists' research. The subdued colour scheme, which later became grisaille, produces an ethereal effect. This aesthetic choice, based on the rejection of realistic, mimetic colour, left most critics bewildered.
Carrière's intimist realism refers formally to Flemish and Dutch painting and the sentimental interpretation of family life places it within a certain tradition of genre painting.