In 1882, disillusioned with life in Paris, Caillebotte moved to Petit Gennevilliers, a small village on the Seine near Argenteuil. He settled there in a house on the banks of the river; and for the rest of his days, the Seine was to be the focus of his life, both as a site for leisure and as a subject for painting. A passionate sailor and fisherman, Caillebotte spent many hours on the Seine, first as a rower and later as a yachtsman; and he frequently depicted boats in his late paintings.
The present work is a view of the Seine at Bezons, downstream from Argenteuil; at the right of the composition is the Morue dam. This work is the largest and most finished of three paintings which Caillebotte made in 1888 depicting men fishing on the Seine. The composition is carefully calculated so that each element in the foreground coordinates with an element in the background, a construction which binds the picture together into a lively and complex image. This kind of play with foreground and background is characteristic of Caillebotte, who of all the Impressionists was the most interested in perspective. This interest may have been prompted in part by the artist's exposure to Japanese prints, whose influence is especially evident in Caillebotte's views of men fishing.
The brushwork in the present painting is free and loose, and shows Caillebotte's attentive study of Monet, Pissarro and Sisley. As Anne Distel has pointed out,
From 1882 onward, Caillebotte found his principal inspiration as a
painter at Petit Gennevilliers, taking up a repertory of motifs
previously explored by Monet.... Curiously, although a man of his
experience on the water might have been expected to highlight
technical details, he consistently viewed these vessels with a
painter's eye, as motifs contributing to overall compositional and
coloristic effects. (A. Distel, Gustave Caillebotte, Urban
Impressionist, Paris, 1994, pp. 272 and 288)