Toulouse-Lautrec’s images of the maisons closes are considered to be his greatest accomplishments, and Au lit: le baiser is an especially beautiful and vibrant example of these important works. Painted in 1892, the present work is one of a series of four compositions in which Lautrec depicts a moment of tender intimacy between two women. For the present work Lautrec chose a viewpoint almost unique in his œuvre, and certainly unique among the other works of this group. The two young women are pictured in a loving embrace, with their bodies foreshortened so that all that is visible of them are their intertwined arms and their closely interlocked faces. The result is a painting of extraordinary intimacy, and one that is among Lautrec’s most psychologically insightful works.
... Lautrec’s use of low, often intimately close viewpoints draws the viewer into the lives of his subjects in much the same way that he too was part of their world. This is particularly the case in his masterful paintings of the brothels of Montmartre where he deliberately avoids glamorizing his subject, offering instead the same privileged insight that he enjoyed.
(Excerpt from a much longer article at http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2015/impressionist-modern-art-evening-sale-l15002/lot.18.html)
It was as a result of his close involvement with the cabaret culture that Lautrec was drawn to the maisons closes. In 1892 Lautrec was commissioned to decorate the salon of a brothel on the rue d’Ambroise. He produced a series of sixteen portraits of the brothel’s residents, and his series of four paintings of women together date from this period. The commission gave him the opportunity to observe the brothel’s inhabitants at all times of the day and night, witnessing not only their interaction with clients, but also their more intimate and private moments. The paintings that resulted consolidated his growing reputation and marked a highpoint of his achievements as an artist.