This gouache by Léger was created and inspired by Arthur Rimbaud's poems, Illuminations. The work exemplifies Léger's fascination with symbolic imagery, as well as contrasting concepts. The depiction of humanity's progress with machinery and architecture is in juxtaposition with the possible future of abandoned equipment and buildings.
This was a favorite work for M. Louis Grosclaude, the editor of Léger's lithographic portfolio entitled Les Illuminations. The inscription on the verso, ("original gouache by Fernand Léger for Arthur Rimbaud's Illuminations and gifted to the underwriter (Louis Grosclaude, editeur) in March 1950") identifies the painting as received from Léger in 1950.
The artist book “Illuminations” of unpublished poems by Arthur Rimbaud (1854 – 1891) is illustrated with 15 original lithographs by Fernand Léger, of which 11 are hand-colored. The book was published in an edition of 395 copies on Velin teinte lourd. Rimbaud had meant "Illuminations" to be paintings in verse. In his turn, Léger incorporated text by Rimbaud into some of his compositions. The illustrations without text are dominated by primary colors typical for Léger.