Initially, Lautrec studied under the León Bonnat and Fernand Cormon who specialized in academic and traditional art and were recognized as two of the great painters of their time. However, he was greatly influenced by the work of Manet, Degas and his fellow-student under Cormon, Van Gogh, resulting in him using styles and subjects that were far removed from the royal road of academic art. For instance, he frequently experimented in new ways of expressing the customs he came across in cafés, cabarets, theatres and circuses.
This work was produced as a poster for a club in the Montmartre area of Paris named Divan Japonais. The woman in black, who is absorbed in the show, appears to be Jane Avril, a dancer who often appears on Lautrec’s work, while the man who is watching her appears to be the critic, Edouard Dujardin. The black gloves of the woman singing on the stage indicate that she is Yvette Guilbert. The bold composition, with the figures dominating the center of the picture, the simplification of outlines, and the combination of areas of flat color are all typical of the innovative posters that were developed by Lautrec. Simultaneously, it could be argued that it also demonstrates the influence of the Japanese woodblock prints of which he was a great admirer.