While most artists and writers who experienced the First World War firsthand came away with a profound distrust of the mechanization of daily living--and indeed the catastrophic consequences of mechanized destruction--and returned to safer, more traditional and classical forms of expression, Lger retained his fascination for the contemporary world of speed and technical efficiency. He wrote, 'On my return from the war, I continued to make use of what I had felt at 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)
During the initial phase in this period, which lasted until 1919, the artist drew his inspiration mainly from industrial objects. Figures would thereafter reclaim their central pride-of-place in Lger's compositions. While Lger referred to basic shapes in machines such as wheels, gears, pistons and rods, he did not copy them. "The modern way of life is full of such elements for us," he wrote, "we must know how to use them. Every age brings with it some new elements which should serve us; the great difficulty is to translate them into plastic terms" (quoted in ibid.).
The present drawing is not directly related as a study for any single painting of this period. The mingling of rotary and cylindrical motifs within a deep and complex grid-like space is derived from two of Lger's major paintings, Les Disques, 1918 (Bauquier no. 149; coll. Musie de Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris) and La Ville, 1919 (Bauquier no. 163; coll. The Philadelphia Museum of Art). More than a dozen other paintings of this period and the early 1920s refer to mechanical elements in their titles.
Some of the shapes in the foreground of the drawing hint at a presence of a still life set in an interior; an outdoor scene is visible through a window-like aperture at upper right. The repetition of rectilinear forms gives the impression of a complex urban space in which indoor and outdoor, the private and public spheres of modern living are inextricably interwoven. Despite reliance upon the monochromatic tone of the pencil, Lger has shaded his forms with great variety and subtlety, and created a masterful illusion of a completely modern and mechanical, although not antagonistic, environment. "By using my imagination and views I try to create, with mechanical elements a beautiful object" (ibid. p. 46).