Madame Cezanne holds a fairly rigid expression and she looks directly at us. The artist's focuses on her neck and head, with everything else removed. He concentrates on light touches of graphite, in the main, which gives an impression of light coming across her face. Shadowing is added, predominantly to the right side of her face, and there is also a small element of background added behind. Her hair is smartly styled, seemingly in a way that she would normally have worn it and her clothing appears to be modest, chosen for everyday use rather than anything particularly glamorous. There is a suggestion of a small brooch or button around her neck, though only with the outline added. We can compare this drawing with some of her painted portraits in order to better understand the clothing worn here.
The artist produced many sketches of his wife and son, appreciating the ease with which he could work as well as the opportunity to create depictions of those closest to him. You will find many other portraits of his family within the sketchbook in which this piece appears. It is known to be at the National Gallery of Art in the USA and is one of the few remaining sketchbooks from his career that have not been pulled apart and sold off in separate lots. Thankfully, we can now study this collection together, and see how he worked from one day to the next. He used graphite throughout his book, and alongside these portraits, there were also some landscape studies as well as copies of old paintings from the masters. A version of a Rubens painting is one of these, for example.
Exhbition curators have, in recent years, made more of an attempt to ensure that different mediums are included together. This has helped us to better understand the working processes of each artist as well as providing much needed variety in the content of what is on display. In the case of Cezanne's drawings, many would have been study pieces with the intention of aiding later paintings, and so some can be put together with the later painting for the purposes of comparing any differences. The item found here is actually not intended as a study piece but was producing for the purposes of practice and development instead. All of his drawings tend to fall into one of these two categories and he was someone to liked to work without any prior planning from time to time.