Le vase rouge was painted during a time of great upheaval in Léger's art. His purist, geometric aesthetic had reached its culmination only a short while previously when his work had achieved a sublime balance of form and colour that was based on the integral beauty of an isolated object. Now, however, Léger began to use the forms in his paintings to disrupt and unbalance the harmony that he had strived for so fiercely. Although never affiliated with the Surrealists, Léger had contact and indeed friendships with many of the movement's members and it was through their indirect influence that his art began to show an increasing disregard for 'reality' throughout the 1930s. The Rappel à l'ordre that had followed the chaos of the First World War had characterised his work for a long time, and had brought him to see the machine as the salvation of the modern world, as the ultimate vision of the future. However, by 1938, when Le vase rouge was executed, this call to order had long since ceased to influence his painting.
Turning his back on the geometry and order that represented his visual expression of purism, Léger reacted to this change in different ways. On the one hand, he continued to combine both real objects and images of abstraction together in his pictorial vocabulary, creating a new objective unity that he hoped would enhance the inherent beauty to be found in the everyday modern world. On the other, Léger began to explore with a new sense of freedom ideas of form, colour and, more importantly, dynamism, expressing what Léger called a 'lyricism in which colour, form and object play equal parts'. While the first group of works was meant to be understood by everyone, Le vase rouge belongs to the second and expanding group of works which Léger was executing with the 'educated' viewer in mind. Le vase rouge, with its exuberant explosion of planes, lines and forms, is a work packed with rhythm and energy, whose dynamism displays an ongoing process of experimentation and discovery by an artist who had always been preoccupied with movement.