The 1920s were a time of frenetic technological change.
The Reading is symptomatic of this period of economic boom and machines, with the arrival of cars, electricity, telephones...
In the 1920s, Europe was also still reeling from the First World War - which had been a traumatic experience.
Leger, who had spent 2 years on the front, was both impressed and horrified by the efficiency and brutality he had witnessed on the front.
"I was stunned by the sight of a 75mm gun in the sunlight, and the crudeness, variety, humor, and downright perfection of certain men around me... Their precise sense of utilitarian reality, in the midst of the life-and-death drama we were in, made me want to paint in slang with all its color and mobility".
Leger wanted to bring this utilitarianism into his art.
For him the next artistic frontier was to reduce the human form to a "plastic", and not "sentimental", value.
"If the human form becomes an object, it can considerably liberate possibilities for the modern artist."
This process of simplifying forms and turning them into machines became known as Tubism.