The Bloch family sat for Vuillard on Saturday mornings every fortnight. During sitting Vuillard seldom talked and the children had to stay quiet. Vuillard began with sketches, pastels, and a photograph. Some of the sketches focus on the composition and others on the pose or expressions of the sitters. The photograph only shows the setting, it does not include any of the sitters. He then executed two full-size sketches in glue-based distemper (his preferred paint medium) which has a very matte surface, one on paper, the other on canvas. The two large studies are executed in a rapid, gestural manner, with short strokes of color and softened edges that owe something to Renoir. After this, he painted a complete, finished portrait in glue-based distemper on canvas which is stricter in expression. With the arrival of a fourth child, Vuillard created a second version.
Vuillard kept a journal for many years, recording his thoughts and plans for works in an abbreviated, telegraphic style. For the Bloch paintings he made numerous notes about his process, from the point when he received the commission through the execution of the second version:
January 20, 1927: "Jean Bloch: his 'idea' for the portrait of his wife. [Came] home at midnight." And the next day: "Ideas falling into place this morning; how might B[onnard] have imagined the color for my portrait? Effort of will to [recapture] the initial sensation and the confrontation with the immediate and at the same time all the reality of the first experience. Dangerous work, [with the possibility of] loss of harmony."
April 30, 1928: "Try to use photographs, difficult."
April 23, 1929, working on the second version: "Effect of curtains drawn against the sun; relationships finer, closer than those I painted before, more transparent."
February 7, 1930: "Several of the colors are quite evocative; dizzying effect of the settee; forego rendering the flowers [on the upholstery]."