In this picture Renoir was not trying to present an ideal image of Monet as a painter. On the contrary, he offers an image as personal as it is realistic. Holding his palette and paint brushes, wearing his painting clothes and in a very relaxed pose, Monet stops what he is doing and looks towards his friend. His figure stands out against the light from the window in a room without furniture. Light is concentrated on the painter's face, creating a brightness at the top of the dark mass of the clothes.
A tree with long narrow leaves, clearly an oleander, invades the space, intruding into the area above Monet's head. Perhaps Renoir is humorously crowning his model with laurel. This friendly intention might also explain the small round hat which is as much a halo as headgear.
The lively, dynamic effect of this canvas is reinforced by the variety of different tones. Thus, the many small, juxtaposed brushstrokes giving vibrancy to the face, contrast with the long, parallel strokes of thick, white-grey paint on the right hand side.
At the second Impressionist Exhibition of 1876, several critics considered this portrait to be worthy of a great master in many ways. But the longest and most detailed comments came from the pen of Emile Zola in the Messager de l'Europe in June 1876. The writer dared to sum up Renoir's work in this astonishing, aesthetic turn of phrase: "His work is worthy of Rembrandt, illuminated by the brilliant light of Velasquez".