When Leech first visited Concarneau in 1903 the picturesque Breton port was already the centre of a large and international artistic community. Henry Thaddeus Jones arrived in 1881 to find the Hôtel des Voyageurs 'crammed with a crowd of cosmopolitan painters similar to that at Pont-Aven'. Other artists to favour the town included Aloysius O'Kelly, Sir John Lavery and Leech's friend Sydney Lough Thompson who described the area as filled with 'quaint fisherfolk, with their picturesque boats, and in the other villages characteristic types particularly valuable to figure painters'. Wishing to paint en plein air in the manner advocated by Jules Bastien-Lepage, Leech joined Thompson at Concarneau in 1903 and remained on a permanent basis until 1906. Thereafter he continued to visit the town regularly until 1917.
Interior of a Vegetable Market, Concarneau was probably painted circa 1908-10 at a time when the artist was gaining recognition for his work at home in Dublin. In 1908 he was elected an Associate member of the Royal Hibernian Academy and on 1 March 1909 an unsigned review in The Irish Times stated: 'Mr Leech's work will be, to many people, the greatest surprise of the exhibition. His earlier painting showed, undoubtedly, great promise but that promise has been fulfilled more rapidly and more completely than even his greatest admirers could have dared to hope. He showed portraits, landscapes, and interiors, and in all there is the sureness of touch, the strength and the sincerity which characterises the man who has attained an assured command over his art'. He was made a full member of the Academy the following year.
The present work, in which a group of white-bonneted women gather in the covered vegetable market, is one of a number of interior scenes which Leech painted at Concarneau in this period. These include Interior of a Café (1908; private collection), Interior of a barber's shop (1909; Crawford Municipal Art Gallery, Cork) and The Fish Market, Concarneau (circa 1910; private collection), works characterised by the use of a subdued palette reflecting the tonal influence of Whistler. In Interior of a Vegetable Market, Concarneau Leech employs the same low tones but pierces the dimly lit room with a shaft of bright sunlight. The painting hints at the dramatic change in Leech's style around 1910 when he relinquished restrained tones in favour of canvases flooded with light and colour. (see D. Ferran, William John Leech An Irish Painter Abroad, National Gallery of Ireland Exhibition Catalogue, Dublin, 1996, pp. 30-32, 45, 103-110, and 116-117).