With his bright palette, careful composition and continuously energetic and uplifting paintings, Manguin established himself among the pioneering artists of the turn of the century. Having come to Paris in the late nineteenth century to study under Gustave Moreau, along with contemporaries Henri Matisse, Albert Marquet, and Georges Rouault, Manguin began to develop a distinctive style full of exuberance which ultimately earned him the fitting sobriquet, "the soft Fauve." He first exhibited at the the Salon des Indépendants in Paris in 1902 and subsequently became a loyal contributor to the Salon d'Automne. Manguin also regularly exhibited at Galerie Bernheim Jeune in Paris and the present painting was acquired by Marcel Bernheim in 1924.
Jean-Paul Crespelle has observed that "what distinguishes [Manguin from Matisse] is the strength and solidity of his draughtsmanship, a lesson learned from Cézanne, who [sic] he came to appreciate much earlier than his friends in the studio of Moreau. While the other Fauves were lost in admiration for Gauguin, Manguin realized how much Gauguin owed to Cézanne" (The Fauves, London, 1962, p. 227). Manguin's preference for clearly delineated contours and accents is evident in the present painting in the confidently demarcated curves of the nude and the delicate patterning of the fabrics that surround her.
The most appealing aspect of Manguin's painting, of course, lies in his luxuriant sense of color. Reviewing an exhibition held at Galerie Druet in 1910, Guillaume Apollinaire, the great poet and aficionado of avant-garde painting, declared, "M. Manguin is a voluptuous painter. Colorist that he is, Manguin confines himself to the expression of contrasts that produce flashes of half-livid, half-flesh-colored light" (quoted in L.C. Breunig, ed., Apollinaire on Art, New York, 1972, p. 100). In 1921, the year before Nu debout à contre-jour was painted, Tristan Klingsor in his book La Peinture stated that, "In his search for bright, vibrant colors, his outbursts of orange, his sumptuous reds... even the shadows contribute to the levity and gaiety, often taking on tones of green."