Boating became fashionable from 1830 in the Ile de France region. Racing boats competed at Argenteuil from 1850 because the Seine widened out into a basin which provided the broadest stretch of water in the Paris region. Linked to Paris by train, Argenteuil attracted many competitors and on Sundays crowds of people came to stroll by the river and watch the races.
Claude Monet lived and worked at Argenteuil from December 1871 to 1878 and half of the 170 canvases he painted during this period show the banks of the Seine. Two years before the Impressionist movement officially came into existence, Monet painted this scene which has all its features, in particular the famous fragmented brushstroke.
Regattas at Argenteuil was painted in natural light, because tin tubes and portable easels allowed artists to leave their studios and paint outside. Monet sought to capture the fluidity of air and water and the way they changed with the light. He explained what he was trying to do: "I want to do something intangible. It's appalling, this light that drifts off and takes the colour with it".