Throughout his career, Léger was drawn toward projects that took him beyond the easel. In 1937, he designed several large-scale murals for the pavilions of the Exposition Internationale des Arts and Techniques dans la Vie Moderne in Paris, which aptly suited his interest in depicting the mechanical age. In 1938, industrialist and arts patron Nelson Rockefeller commissioned Léger to design bold, heroic murals to adorn his New York apartment: one for his circular staircase and one over his fireplace in the sitting room opposite Henri Matisse's commissioned design above another fireplace in the room.
Léger also submitted a proposal for a mural project at Rockefeller Center, to be executed in collaboration with Rockefeller's architect, Wallace K. Harrison. This project was conceived as a "cinematic mural"--a rhythmic series of vertical panels with imagery including skyscrapers, smokestacks and the Statue of Liberty, meant to simulate the visual impressions of a traveler entering New York City harbor for the first time. Unfortunately, the project was rejected by the Rockefeller Center Art Committee headed by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Nelson's more conservative father. The present gouache is a study for the ambitious mural series that was never realized.