A young man seen from the back is talking to a young woman standing on a swing, watched by a little girl and another man, leaning against the trunk of a tree. Renoir gives us the impression of surprising a conversation – as if in a snapshot, he catches the glances turned towards the man seen from the back. The young woman is looking away as if she were embarrassed. The foursome in the foreground is balanced by the group of five figures sketchily brushed in the background.
The Swing has many points in common with The Ball at the Moulin de la Galette. The two pictures were painted in parallel in the summer of 1876. The models in The Swing, Edmond, Auguste Renoir's brother, the painter Robert Goeneutte and Jeanne, a young woman from Montmartre, figure among the dancers in The Ball. The same carefree atmosphere infuses both pictures.
As in The Ball, Renoir is particularly trying to catch the effects of sunlight dappled by the foliage. The quivering light is rendered by the patches of pale colour, particularly on the clothing and the ground. This particularly annoyed the critics when the painting was shown at the Impressionist exhibition of 1877. The Swing nonetheless found a buyer – Gustave Caillebotte, who also bought The Ball at the Moulin de la Galette.