When Lebasque moved to Paris in 1885, he attended the atelier of Léon Bonnat along with fellow students Pierre Bonnard and Edouard Vuillard. Like his colleagues, he strove to portray "intimisme" in his paintings and frequently depicted domestic subjects, a theme he would continue to explore throughout his career. A later visit and subsequent friendship with Henri Matisse, whose paintings he first saw in 1905 at the Salon d'Autumne, likewise had a profound effect upon his work; Lebasque began to appropriate the flatness of shape and color from Matisse in his oeuvre.
In the mid-twenties, Lebasque moved to Le Cannet on the French Riviera. It was here in the Midi, with Pierre Bonnard and Matisse as neighbors, that Lebasque began to concentrate on nudes. These voluptuous odalisques, as Lisa Banner wrote, were the "culmination of his intimist manner of painting--the celebration of the female form as fertile, warm and inspiring" (in Lebasque, exh. cat., Montgomery Gallery, San Francisco, 1986, p. 70).
In Nu allongé, Lebasque demonstrates his ability to play with light and decorative elements to highlight the sensual woman who is the focus of his composition. The painting is infused with a soft Mediterranean light which Lebasque conveys through his warm color palette and airy brushwork. The lightness of the palette duplicates the relaxed manner in which the model stretches her body across the divan. The decorative patterns of the table cloth and bedspread likewise echo the curvaceous form of the model's body as she lies in repose. All these elements draw the viewer into this sensual world of quiet intimacy. Banner has stated:
Lebasque demonstrates in his odalisques, as in all his best work, a quiet vitality and an energy contained in repose. Matisse's nudes of the same period, painted in his neighbouring villa on the Riviera, share his rich decorative sense, but approach the nude in a more intellectual style, as opposed to Lebasque's sensuous style. Lebasque painted his young models in poses of penetrating intimacy and subtle clarity... In his several depictions of nudes at open windows, Lebasque uses his implicit knowledge of light and color to create air around the figure, what French art historians refer to as l'atmosphère. (op. cit., p. 72)