The painting here and one in the London National Gallery (Bathers at La Grenouillere , oil on canvas, 73 x 92 cm) are probably the sketches mentioned by Monet in his letter. A bigger size painting, now lost but formerly in the Arnhold collection in Berlin, may well have been the “tableau“ that he dreamed of. The broad, constructive brushstrokes here are clearly those of a sketch. For his exhibition pictures Monet usually sought a more delicate and carefully calibrated surface at this time. An almost identical composition of the same subject by Renoir is in the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm. The two friends were undoubtedly working side by side.
La Grenouillère was a popular working class resort consisting of a spa, a boating establishment and a floating café. Optimistically promoted as “Trouville-sur-Seine“, it was located on the Seine near Bougival, easily accessible by train from Paris and had just been favoured with a visit by Emperor Napoleon III with his wife and son. Monet and Renoir both recognized in La Grenouillère an ideal subject for the images of leisure they hoped to sell.
As in his earlier picture of the Garden at Sainte-Adresse, Monet concentrated on repetitive elements - the ripples on the water, the foliage, the boats, the human figures - to weave a fabric of brushstrokes which, although emphatically brushstrokes, retain a strong descriptive quality.