Asnières is an industrial suburb north-west of Paris on the River Seine. The present work shows a group of young workmen taking their leisure by the river.
This was the first of Seurat's large-scale compositions. He drew conté crayon studies for individual figures using live models, and made small oil sketches on site which he used to help design the composition and record effects of light and atmosphere. Some 14 oil sketches and 10 drawings survive. The final composition, painted in the studio, combines information from both.
While the painting was not executed using Seurat's pointillist technique, which he had not yet invented, the artist later reworked areas of this picture using dots of contrasting colour to create a vibrant, luminous effect. For example, dots of orange and blue were added to the boy's hat.
The simplicity of the forms and the use of regular shapes clearly defined by light recalls paintings by the Renaissance artist Piero della Francesca. In his use of figures seen in profile, Seurat may also have been influenced by ancient Egyptian art.