In early 1921, Galerie Durand-Ruel held a large Renoir exhibition, and many artists were attracted to the nudes of Renoir's late period. In this year Léger, who had already introduced a classical conception of the figure into his paintings (see lot 385), turned to the theme of the female nude or odalisque.
This study shares elements of several paintings which Léger worked on in 1921, and shows the gradual transition to Le Déjeuner (Bauquier, vol. II, no. 307; sale, Christie's, New York, May 11, 1988, lot 42), painted in the same year. The central placement of the figures is related to Les trois figures (Bauquier, vol. II, no. 287); the table and carafe are depicted in reverse. These still-life elements reappear in Femme couché (Bauquier, vol. II, no. 298) and again in Les trois femmes et la nature morte (Bauquier, vol. II, no. 300). In the present work Léger established the essential design of the background in Le Déjeuner. In the final painting he separates the two heads, and opts for a rectangular table to reinforce the gridlike structure of the composition.