Having observed first-hand the vast killing machine of war, Léger was fascinated by the increasingly mechanical nature of modern life. He later wrote: "On my return from the war, I continued to make use of what I had felt at the front for three years, I used geometrical forms; this will be called the mechanical period." (Quoted in J. Cassou and J. Leymarie, op. cit., p. 45)
Within a short time, however, as part of a wider post-war classicizing trend (embodied most famously in the work of Picasso), a new humanism began to assert itself, and Léger returned to the human form. Whereas the geometrical shapes of the mechanical period were dynamic and often spatially ambiguous, Léger's newer conception of form was static and volumetric.
This transformation is clear in the present work. The wheel or gear, emblematic of technology and industry, remains a significant element in the composition, but out of this geometrical matrix a clearly human presence materializes. Léger stated:
Earlier I had broken up the human body. Now I began to put it back together, to find the face again. Since then I have always used the human form. Later it developed, slowly, towards a more realistic, less schematic presentation. (Ibid., p. 47)