In the years immediately following World War I, artists searched for a new vocabulary with which they could reconcile the destruction they had encountered as a result of the war. Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, who had met Laurens in 1920, observed that, "After World War I it was fashionable to proclaim the death of Cubism. To be sure, a shift had taken place. Picasso often remarked that Cubism was a group endeavor. The war had dispersed the members of the group, bringing an end to the world in which Cubism had emerged as a style. Consequently, Cubism was detached from its native soil. There remained an intellectual concept, or rather an aesthetic, yet each artist followed his own path. Cubism had seemingly changed but its essence remained. Its ultimate goal, to render the external world through non-illusionist means achieved through the elaboration of an autonomous pictorial code, had been reached by the Cubist masters despite the changed form of their later works" (W. Hofmann, The Sculpture of Henri Laurens, New York, 1970, p. 50).
By 1920, Picasso had begun to work in a classical mode in many of his figure paintings, while at the same time still producing Cubist still lifes. Laurens also took this direction away from the hard, layered and angled forms of Cubism to the simpler and more rounded shapes of the new classicism, to which he contributed his own values of refined sensuality, timelessness and balance.
Femme couchée is representative of Laurens' work from the 1920s in its return to the human figure and emphasis on the volume and weight of forms. Laurens' efforts to reconcile the Cubist angularity with the new classicism are evident in his softening of the lines in Femme couchée. The flattened planar forms of his earlier Cubist sculpture become tubular and increasingly more rotund and are reduced to their essential details.