“Enfants jouant a la balle” was the last of the four lithographs in color which Renoir drew for Vollard at the end of the 1890’s. As for the previous three (“Baigneuse debout en pied,” “L’enfant au biscuit” and “Le chapeau epingle”) he worked on the stones in the studio of the printer Auguste Clot. By this time Renoir’s real gifts in lithography were fully developed, and he understood clearly the richness of color tone and the contrasts of light which juxtapositions of pure ink color and overprinting could create. The result was one of the most sought-after masterworks of Impressionist lithography. Dr. Joseph Stella, the most recent cataloguer of Renoir’s graphic works, in his catalogue raisonne states that "This lithograph (is) considered by many to be Renoir’s best . . ."
The children in the composition are most certainly Renoir’s own, Jean and Claude (still dressed in girl’s clothes as was then the custom) together with Julie Manet and her cousin Paulette Gobillard.
Source: "Christopher-Clark Fine Art, 2017"