Painted in the final year of the artist’s life, Prunes et pêches displays the artist’s interest in the effects of light and colour on objects and surfaces. At the beginning of his career Renoir, unlike his peers, had shown little interest in still-life compositions. However, this genre soon began to occupy an increasingly important position in his work, underlining the academic approach that influenced his art. His main influence was then Jean Siméon Chardin, France's great genre painter. ‘Nurtured on the traditions of eighteenth-century French painting,’ Charles Sterling commented discussing Renoir's pictorial dialogue with Chardin, ‘Renoir...carried on the serene simplicity of Chardin. Pale shadows, light as a breath of air, faintly ripple across the perishable jewel of a ripe fruit. Renoir reconciles extreme discretion with extreme richness, and his full-bodied density is made up, it would seem, of coloured air. This is a lyrical idiom hitherto unknown in still life, even in those of Chardin. Between these objects and us there floats a luminous haze through which we distinguish them, tenderly united in a subdued shimmer of light (C. Sterling, Still Life in Painting from Antiquity to the Present Time, Paris, 1959, p. 100).
Although Chardin’s lesson was always detectable in Renoir’s still-lifes, his approach to the subject in the later years would undeniably turn to the output of his contemporaries, particularly Cézanne’s. The inventiveness of the composition, created from the very simplest of means, is indebted to the numerous still-lifes Cézanne painted in Melun. Rendered in quick, almost brisk brushstrokes of vivid colours – shades of green, red and white – the composition also demonstrates Renoir’s interest in the most recent artistic developments, such as Fauvism and Expressionism. Its nonchalant nature and vivid hues gift this jewel-like painting with the aura of modernity that only a master as Renoir could achieve.