Forain's palette darkened as he became older. He had been a friend and disciple of Degas, and contributed to four of the last Impressionist exhibitions 1879-1886. But his subjects, and the way in which he treated them, became more sombre after the turn of the century.
This painting is undated, but is obviously a late work, from the period when Forain had turned away from political satire and lighter follies in order to depict the darker side of human behaviour. He had been a notorious and vitriolic anti-Semite during the Dreyfus Affair, using his brush savagely, and this work also shows Forain's ability to portray aggression, domination and despair.
The painter and his model appear to be exhausted by the process of the creation of art, even of life itself. Colours are muted, there are to be no highlights for these two poor individuals. The painter is unidentified - perhaps he stands for all artists, struggling to make a living. And the model? Her submission is absolute.
Forain restricts his palette to present a pessimistic picture of people impoverished in spirit. He and Toulouse-Lautrec were friends and exhibited at the same gallery in Paris. Perhaps there is something of the tragedy of Toulouse-Lautrec's early deterioration and death in 1901 in this gloomy work.