Unveiled at the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874, this painting is considered one of the defining works of the period, combining fluid brushwork with a subject taken from contemporary life.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir created a painting about looking, without providing a clear narrative for what we see. The fashionable modern couple sitting in a theatre box was a new subject for fine art. Reviewers were surprised by the contrast between the woman looking towards us and her companion training his opera glasses on other members of the audience.
Some critics also claimed the woman in her striking outfit was a victim of fashion and vanity. Renoir staged the scene in his studio; his brother Edmond and the professional model Nini Lopez posed as the couple.