Adieu is one of Lavery's earliest canvases. The source of its subject matter and the identity of the model remain obscure, although we may infer that the title alludes to an illicit liaison - a popular and commercially acceptable theme. At this time the young painter was known to work up costume studies of this type into saleable romantic subjects (see K. McConkey, Sir John Lavery, Edinburgh, 1993, pp. 16-18).
The model's costume and mob cap suggests that the scene is set in the 1830s or 40s, although there is some inconsistency in the cut of the dress and the ruffed blouse. Her fingerless black lace wrist warmers were common at that period. Although dated 1883 in 1914, the canvas is likely to have been painted at least two years earlier. A slightly more accomplished work, clearly dated 1881, showing the same costumed model seated facing the spectator and holding the fan in her lap is known. In this the pink sash which falls from the model's waist in the present work, is tied tightly around her midriff, giving the loose-fitting dress - clearly a studio property - an Empire line. The fan dangles from her left hand in the present work.