Throughout his life Sisley found inspiration in his immediate surroundings. His move to the district around Moret-sur-Loing in 1880 opened up new possibilities, which he was to explore for the rest of his life. During the 1880s he painted a series of views of the port of Saint-Mammès, on the confluence of the rivers Seine and Loing. He started the series in 1881, painting the view from across the Seine. In 1883, he set up his easel along the banks of the Loing, which was less built up than the other riverbank, and continued to paint the outlying houses, with their distinctive red roofs, the boatyards, and locks.
In the present work Sisley has angled his view to the north, with the canal receding diagonally into the distance. A very similar vantage point can be seen in another picture of 1885, now in the Cleveland Museum of Art (D. 615). Sisley exhibits great ingenuity in devising a variety of compositions from minimal shifts in viewpoint. In a picture dated 1888, now in Dublin (fig. 1), he positioned himself at right angles to the canal, and produced a more horizontal composition. His field of vision was always carefully worked out, and he made numerous sketches enumerating the various possibilities (fig. 2).