This drawing is related to the oil painting Paysage animi, 1924 (Bauquier no. 386; coll. The Philadelphia Museum of Art). In the painting the figures of the two men have been transposed and the urban setting around them greatly altered. The pair also appear in two other oil paintings of 1924, both versions of the same subject: Paysage animi (Bauquier no. 387; private collection) and Deux hommes (Les Visiteurs; Bauquier no. 388, Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris). In these pictures the two men are seen on the steps to a building; one is ringing the doorbell, and carries a rolled sheet under his arm.
Cassou and Leymarie (op. cit.) note that the two men actually represent Lger and his dealer Lonce Rosenberg, owner of the Galerie de l'Effort Moderne, and these pictures recount a trip taken to Italy in August-September, 1924. In that year Lger became Rosenberg's leading artist (Picasso and Braque were showing at Paul Rosenberg's gallery, and Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler represented Gris) and to cement their new partnership the two men toured Florence, Rome, Venice, Ravenna and other cities in the north, viewing late medieval and Renaissance painting and architecture. Lger was especially drawn to the work of the Primitives, and the mosaics that decorated church interiors.
Another reason for the trip was a meeting with Giorgio de Chirico (the event which is perhaps depicted in Bauquier nos. 387 and 388); Rosenberg persuaded the Italian artist to leave Rome, move to Paris, and show at his gallery. Indeed, the figures set in a city landscape recall de Chirico's city squares and treatment of architectural settings. Lger had seen de Chirico's costumes and sets for the ballet La Giara by Alfredo Casella, performed by the Ballet Sudois. Lger was working on his own designs for a filmed Ballet mcanique, a collaboration with the American Dudley Murphy, who had worked with Man Ray.
In a pencil study for Bauquier nos. 387 and 388 (ex-coll. Douglas Cooper; sale Christie's, New York, 11 May 1992, lot 34) the man in the flat-topped straw hat wears a moustache, as did Lger, and consequently the figure at right in the present drawing may represent the artist. Rosenberg looks somewhat more dapper wearing a bowler hat and carrying a cane.
"Lger's new city men are not the generalized robot mechanisms of 1921, but far more specifically they are the stiffly formal inhabitants of city suits, their impersonal 'neo-classical' heads topped by beat city hats. They are, in fact, the men of urban routine. A sense is created of a compressed, claustrophobic space, part Cubist, part perspectival, articulated by the forms of buildings which are not fantastic or progressive, but lifted item by item from the actual and ordinary building forms of Paris." (C. Green, Lger and the Avant-Garde, New Haven, 1976, p. 258)