The setting for this painting is believed to have been the El Cabañal beach in Valencia, which was a location that the artist worked from many times. He loved to see children having fun in this bright and open environment, and would produce portraits of them playing in all manner of ways, such as the young child with a little yacht as found here. He leans over, with the water lapping around his lower legs, and carefully places this small toy onto the surface of the water, imagining it to be a real boat about to set off on a great adventure. The boat itself is beautifully white, giving a bright splash of colour and allowing it to contrast against the blue tones of the sea below. It also gives a feeling of purity, relating to the child who simply is enjoying his life without a care in the world. Sorolla would later produce paintings of real boats within the same location, capturing the hard working lives of the local adults which contrasts considerably with the atmosphere of this painting, which sometimes is known instead as The Sailing Boat.
One artistic element to note here is that perspective is essentially removed, as we cannot really see anything in the foreground or background, but rather just a spread of sea water which fills the entire scene. This is something of a contemporary idea, and Sorolla would use it again in some of his other paintings. The boat then reflects light beautifully across the vertical, leading all the way to the viewer. The same happens again with the young child, with tones of pink mixed with the sea waves down to the bottom of the painting. We can just about make out a larger wave just at the top of the canvas and a slim line of white which makes its way across the horizontal just above the child's head, but otherwise there is a uniformity of pattern, with different tones of blue creating a strong but safe flow of water around the young boy.
Joaquin Sorolla captured children within his portraits about as well as any artist that we can remember but crucially, he also did so within natural settings in which they would be playing and enjoying life. This made his portraits just so charming. A comparison can be made with Mary Cassatt, who also mastered the genre of child portraits but normally did so within domestic settings, such as in the home, or the garden. She would also normally place them alongside their mothers, providing an alternative dynamic to that created by Sorolla, who often placed children together, having fun in a delightfully innocent manner. Some examples of Cassatt's own brilliance can be found in the likes of The Child's Bath, Little Girl in a Blue Armchair and Boating Party. The French Impressionists were also joined by another famous female artist, Morisot, who also captured children within many of her paintings and these two painters helped to add an extra perspective to the movement, widening its appeal and scope of genre.