The scene is painted on the diagonal, which is both destabilizing and draws the viewer immediately into the picture. In the right foreground looms a large oval or round brown table on which sit a box of matches and a half-full tumbler of clear liquid. As the viewer’s eye follows the tumbler diagonally back, a gray-haired, balding man wearing a brown suit or robe is seated at the table, leaning back in his chair, smoking a cigar.

Behind the cigar smoker, near a corner of the room, standing with her back to the man, is a woman dressed in a white blouse and black skirt. She leans with her bent left arm on a chest of drawers and rests her chin on her right hand, leaning on her bent right elbow. Her features are not clearly visible, but her eyes appear to be closed. A painting of a woman’s upper body hangs above her on the wall that faces the viewer.


The painting is a study in disconnection and lack of communication. The title of the work, which is translated as "boredom," tells us what the artist had in mind, but the viewer can only speculate about what has gone on between these two and where their relationship is heading. The table and the man seated at it dominate the picture. There is a certain air of smugness about the man, and perhaps an air of silent resignation about the woman standing behind him.

Sickert was a major figure in British art, strongly influenced by the work of Edgar Degas, who traveled to London in the 1870s and later became friends with Sickert. "Sickert adopted Degas’ unconventional perspectives, shared his intensity of psychological expression, and followed his lead in the blurring of social class distinctions." (Quoted from the flyer accompanying the Phillips Collection exhibit, in Washington, DC, February 18-May 14, 2006: "Degas, Sickert and Toulouse-Lautrec: London and Paris, 1870-1910.") "Ennui" and Degas’ The Glass of Absinthe and Interior form an interesting triad of psychological exploration and social commentary (see this database for annotations).


Painted circa 1914

Primary Source

Degas, Sickert and Toulouse-Lautrec: London and Paris, 1870-1910, Exhibition Catalogue, Phillips Collection museum shop, Washington, D.C. 2006. Also in: Southgate, M. Therese, ed. The Art of JAMA: Covers and Essays from The Journal of The American Medical Association (AMA Press/Mosby) 1997, p. 165.