Born in Saratov in 1840, Harlamoff enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg in 1854. In 1868, the young artist won a gold medal and travel scholarship and the stipend allowed him to travel to Paris, where he took up residence and would remain for the rest of his life, to study under the great portrait painter and teacher Leon Bonnat. Harlamoff followed his teacher's lead and established himself as a portraitist in Paris, painting intellectual luminaries such as the poet Alphonse Daudet, the writer Ivan Turgenev and the singer Pauline Viardot-Garcia.
Harlamoff participated regularly in the Paris Salon from 1875, as well as the Universal Exposition in Vienna. It was here that American and European collectors discovered the artist and many his works made their way to the United States at the end of the 19th Century. The artist gradually moved away from portraiture and specialized in idealized portraits of girls or young women, and these romanticized portraits of innocence were enormously successful.
In 1874, Harlamoff exhibited two paintings at the Academy of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg and was awarded the title 'Academic Portrait Painter' and shortly thereafter he entered the 'Association of Itinerant Exhibitors', which was a group of artists who opposed the traditional Academy in Russia. From 1879, he also contributed to the Itinerant Exposition in Russian, and also art critics and his colleagues criticized his lack of social commentary in his work, they were generous in their praise of his artistic virtuosity.
In the present painting, the artist is clearly at the height of his powers, and has moved from his traditional format of a half-length figure of a young girl to a more interesting and complex composition involving three children. Three young girls have stopped in the midst of their playing to snack on apples which have spilled from a barrel at the left of the composition. The three girls are interlocked through the process of sharing the apples and the dark-haired girl draws the viewer in through her direct gaze out of the picture plane, and she leads the viewer to the child stretched out on her back, reaching for the apple. The third, blond child, through her gaze, brings the viewer full circle back to the first child. The brushwork is free and loose, and the palette is a wonderfully controlled series of muted tones punctuated by reds and blues.