As a reporter on all aspects of the life around him, Lavery was an exponent of the conversation-piece. From the 1880s he had consistently deployed his skills to record the life around him in an informal way. The richness of human behaviour fascinated him. During the early years of the twentieth century, this aspect of his work came to the fore in a number of what were later dubbed 'portrait interiors', scenes such as The Greyhound, 1909 (Ulster Museum, Belfast), in which figures casually converse in the opulent setting of the British Legation at Tangier. Like this, Two Ladies talking on a Sofa may also have been painted in Tangier. In the present sketch, two women, perhaps Hazel and Eileen Lavery, although we cannot be certain, chat to one another by a window on a sunny day. Hazel is shown reclining in the interiors of the period and in such a pose she was the subject of a celebrated portrait photograph by Baron de Meyer for American Vogue.
The contre jour effect in the present work is enhanced by strong highlights which help to throw the chesterfield and the chair on the right into relief. The reclining figure and compositional arrangement anticipate two important works shown in the Royal Academy in 1920, A Room in Sunlight, Tangier (no. 337, untraced) and The Convalescent (no. 34, private collection). The first of these shows Hazel Lavery reclining on a sofa in a sunny room, while in the second, Lavery depicted the wounded Lady Diana Cooper, in her bedroom, propped up on pillows. Although we cannot be certain, Miss Muriel East, to whom the present sketch is dedicated, may be a relative of the landscape painter, Sir Alfred East, who died in 1913.