This painting depicts a popular boating and bathing establishment with an adjacent floating café, on the Seine near Bougival to the west of Paris. In the summer of 1869 Monet was living near La Grenouillère with his mistress, Camille, and their son. Working alongside Renoir, he painted sketches of the scene in a very fresh and direct manner, possibly in preparation for a slightly larger canvas, now lost.
The exceptionally free handling of Monet's painting may in part be due to the canvas being a sketch for what was to be a more ambitious composition painted back in the studio. He uses broad areas of colour to indicate the boats moored in the shadows, while dots in the lighted water in the background represent a party of bathers in the river.