The present picture depicts the Loing River at Moret, a picturesque town near the Forest of Fontainebleau where Sisley lived for much of the final two decades of his life. The artist was captivated by Moret, and tried to persuade Monet to join him there shortly after his arrival in 1882: "Moret is just two hours journey from Paris, and has plenty of places to let at six hundred to a thousand francs. There is a market once a week, a pretty church, and beautiful scenery round about. If you were thinking of moving, why not come and see?" (quoted in M. Stevens, Alfred Sisley, exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1992, p. 184). Most importantly, Moret provided Sisley with a rich array of artistic motifs, from the medieval church and the historic stone bridge to the humble wash-houses on the banks of the Loing. In the present canvas, Sisley focuses on the river itself, depicted beneath an expansive, cloud-flecked sky. At the left side of the canvas, several figures descend the riverbank toward a waiting skiff; on the opposite quay, a cluster of barges is moored near a red-roofed shed. Stately avenues of poplars line the river, their foliage rendered in loose, lively strokes. Fragmented reflections play across the light-dappled surface of water, recalling the critic Adolphe Tavernier's description of Sisley as "a magician of light, a poet of the heavens, of the waters, of the trees - in a word, one of the most remarkable landscapists of his day" (quoted in ibid., p. 28).
A distinctive feature of the present canvas is Sisley's emphasis on the poplar trees that border the Loing. A well-known feature of the French countryside, poplars were often placed along rural roads and at the entrances of estates. They were used as windshields for tilled fields and as a form of fencing to demarcate property lines, and were planted along the banks of rivers to diminish the possibility of flooding. With their strict linearity and intrinsic decorative elegance, poplars were a favored artistic motif for both Sisley and Monet. Even during Sisley's lifetime, critics praised the artist's affinity for trees, particularly "the poplar, in all its nobility, with its pyramidal tip, like a thought that takes wing towards the skies" (L. Roger-Miles, Exposition A. Sisley, exh. cat., Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 1897; quoted in ibid., p. 212).