From the beginning, Vuillard's art took an intimist and autobiographical direction that marked all of his work. This breakfast scene, painted around 1900, shows the artist's mother seated at the table in the half-light, in a comfortable bourgeois setting. At this time, the artist was moving away from the Nabi stylisation, and going back to using light to create perspective and modelling effects.
Vuillard never tired of observing his mother as she went about her daily tasks. He painted her while she was sewing, reading and attending to her household chores. A former corset maker, she had raised her son in the cosy atmosphere of her workshop, filled with ribbons and fabrics. This is probably where his love of wallpapers, tablecloths and clothes, found in many of his paintings, originated. His interest was strengthened by the decorative motifs of certain Japanese prints, themselves inspired by the designs on kimonos.
The Artist's Mother taking Breakfast is not without any Japanese influence, noticeable in the asymmetry of the composition and in the subject itself of the painting. Harunobu (around 1725-1770), in particular, painted many interior scenes featuring women occupied with calm, domestic tasks.
As an intimist and decorative artist above all else, Vuillard expresses the everyday poetry of this closed world – a rather stifling world, filled with objects and fabrics – with a familiar technique of his where he plays on the tiniest nuances of colour. In delicate harmonies, which blend into each other like a tapestry, Vuillard merely suggests shapes in order to convey better the gentle intimacy of this décor, as well as the solitude and the inability to communicate between even the closest human beings.