This painting will be reproduced in the Renoir catalogue raisonné from François Daulte being prepared by the Wildenstein Institute.
As is often the case with Renoir's landscapes, Deux personnages au bord de l'eau, is not essentially topographical, but depicts a general, archetypal view. The spontaneous brushwork is contained within a clear compositional structure, with the vertical axis of trees framing the scene. John House writes of the fusion of classicism and Impressionism in Renoir's landscape scenes, noting how in smaller, informal canvases, such as the present Deux personnages au bord de l'eau, 'the careful compositional framing and the combination of all elements into a harmonious ensemble clearly belongs to the heritage of Claude, while the small scale, the broken touch and the summary description of objects closely ally the picture with the tradition of the Impressionist sketch' (exh.cat., J. House, Renoir, Hayward Gallery, London, 1985, p. 277).
In the present work Renoir renders the essentials of the landscape: the windblown trees, the ruffled surface of the water and the blue of the sky behind the clouds, all captured with his swift expressive technique. On the subject of landscapes, Renoir observed: 'A painter can't be great if he does not understand landscapes. Landscape, in the past, has been a form of contempt, particularly in the eighteenth century; but still, that century that I adore did produce some landscapists. I'm at one with the eighteenth century. With all modesty, I consider not only that my art descends from a Watteau, a Fragonard, a Hubert Robert, but also that I am one of them...' (quoted in ibid.).