"Boating" was painted in summer 1874, when Manet was working with Renoir and Monet at Argenteuil. The subject from modern life painted "en plein air" (outdoors), the high-keyed palette, the raised viewpoint, and the abrupt cropping of the composition are all in keeping with the Impressionist style recently developed by his younger colleagues. Manet, however, preferred not to exhibit at their independent group shows but to submit his works to the official Salons. "Boating" was shown in the Salon of 1879.
The identity of the sitters is unknown, but the man may be Manet's brother-in-law Rodolphe Leenhoff. X-rays and pentimenti indicate that he originally held the rope in his right hand.