Léger's painting for most of his career shows the artist moving back and forth between near abstraction and updated conventions of traditional figuration, and his best works reflect a synthesis of these bipolar tendencies. Writing in 1950, Léger argued that total abstraction, what he referred to as "freedom in art", had run its course. He felt it was possible to return to the subject without renouncing the abstract; indeed, the formal freedoms won through experimentation earlier in the century now called out for a new treatment of subject matter. Nevertheless, several basic formal components must remain paramount. Léger wrote,
"The plastic life, the picture, is made up of harmonious relationships among volumes, lines and colors. These are the three forces that must govern works of art. If, in organizing these three essential elements harmoniously, one finds that objects, elements of reality, can enter into the composition, it may better and may give the work more richness. But they must be subordinated to the three essential elements mentioned above" (quoted in E.F. Fry, ed. Functions of Painting by Fernand Léger, New York, 1973, p. 168).
Léger's return to France from his American exile following the end of the Second World War led a new appreciation of the realistic tradition in French painting, and with this new interest in figuration, Leger set out in the 1950s on his final great compositions, grouped around the subjects of Les constructeurs, La partie de campagne and La grande parade. Each of these subjects takes the human figure as its central subject, which the artist places in a recognizable space.
The present painting, which may depict a corner in the artist's home or studio, consists of a small catalogue of easily recognizable objects, all of which are functional or decorative objects in the artist's daily life. One may imagine the artist taking time out from working on the great mural-size works of this period, and by way of relaxation turning briefly to this humble scene, in which he contemplates the great heritage of French still-life painting from Chardin to Cézanne. The elements appear to have been spontaneously assembled and informally arranged. The sheer profusion of objects exists in a realistic space, and are brought into harmony by the artful use of carefully architected line, contrasting forms and volumes, and the balancing of color areas.