During the 1890s, Renoir's social life was divided into two distinct categories, and consequently was reflected in his work. He built up a clientele for portrait commissions, executing some formal society portraits; by contrast, he also painted portraits of anonymous models, and, through which he sought only to render the charm and youthful appeal of his sitters. Colin Bailey writes "When [Renoir] paints a portrait, he asks his model to behave normally, to sit as she usually sits, to dress as she normally dresses, so that nothing smacks of constraint or artificial preparation" (C. Bailey, Renoir's Portraits, London, 1987, p. 20).
Contemporary critics of Renoir were also quick to laud these achievements, recognizing in works such as Fillettes au bord de la mer a true master at work. Gustave Geffroy wrote in La vie artistique in 1894:
The work of Renoir is a source of enchantment for the eye. It is also a consolation, a balm for the spirit. The desire for and achievement of harmony, the pursuit of young and supple bodies, the contemplation of beings in motion, seeking oblivion in the frenzy of the dance and the sensuality of love, bouquets inhaled, flesh caressed, reveries first indulged in at the stream's edge, spreading to the ebb of dazzling seas, fading with the fleeting clouds--this is Renoir's philosphy of melancholy joy as expressed in his work (G. Geffroy, La vie artistique, Paris, circa 1900, pp. 188-189).