In this work, Bart van der Leck uses rigid, schematic shapes and primary colours to evoke a dynamic image of the activity in a large port at the start of the 20th century. A ship is unloaded with a crane and dockworkers carry crates and other goods towards a horse and carriage. A group of passengers stands on the left, and behind them a suitcase is loaded onto the carriage.
Work at the docks is a typical painting for Van der Leck, who usually takes situations and scenes from the everyday life of the working class as his subjects. It is also the first painting in which he uses only the primary colours, red, yellow and blue, along with black and white.
Mü̈ller & Co
In this case, the theme is also linked to the fact that Van der Leck works as an artist and designer in the service of Müller & Co. from 1914 to 1916. For this transport and trading company, run by Anton Kröller, he designs, among other things, a stained-glass window and a poster for ‘De Batavierlijn’, a scheduled service of the company between Rotterdam and London.