In the 1880s, Willem de Zwart was often in the company of George Hendrik Breitner. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that they often chose the same subjects (such as working-class figures and melancholy flower arrangements). In De Zwart’s paintings, the flower petals glow with light against a dark background. This taste for Rembrandtesque chiaroscuro is also reflected in several portraits painted at this time. They include three paintings of girls in kimonos. His wife-to-be Maria Helena Reevers modelled for Girl in White and quite probably also for Recumbent Girl in a Kimono and Girl with a Japanese Parasol.
Compared with Breitner’s 'Japanese girls', who seem completely at home in their opulent setting of oriental carpets and folding screens, De Zwart’s figures look like models dressed up and posed with a few suitable props. The intimacy of the images makes them more akin to the figure paintings of Jacob Maris but the deep, vibrant colours seem to be a deliberate move by De Zwart permanently to distance himself from the Hague School with its tonal palette.