It is not entirely clear whether this study was in preparation for a later painting, but we do know that Cezanne produced many architectural paintings during his career, often capturing just a few houses within a relatively rural setting. He was not a great fan of city life and often longed for the countryside. It was here that his palettes would become brighter, perhaps reflecting an improved mood. Cezanne was known to be unstable from time to time and not always the easiest individual to deal with, though he seemed to calm down whilst out in the southern parts of his native country. The impact of nature has helped a large number of people over the centuries, and not just artists, and Cezanne himself learnt to take sketchbooks with him as he travelled around the countryside. By capturing memories in this way, he could then potentially create paintings from his own studio at a later date.
The page on which this drawing was made was short and wide, perfect for a landscape sketch. The piece has been dated at around 1879-1882, though the remaining sketches in this book cover a wide range of several decades. The entire series has been recorded and documented online by its owners, the National Gallery of Art in the US. They received the book directly from the Mellon family who were famous collectors who regularly donated parts of their collection to American institutions. The book used woven paper from front to back and aside from the artworks, there are also a number of notes left on certain pages, as well as a few left blank and unused. This Study of Houses would appear within the catalogue of the artist's work which was recently completed and attempted to draw together all of his contributions in drawing, oil painting and watercolour, which run into the thousands in total.
The composition itself features some darker areas which resemble shadowing. He uses different directions of graphite strokes to fill the vertical and horizontal parts of these houses, though deliberately leaves much of the scene in limited detail. It may have been that he wanted to practice architectural angles, something which consistently challenges even the finest artists. They may have later been paintings that took advantage of this exploration of architectural drawing, where his accuracy of perspective improved, though they would have been featured within much more complex layouts, making the connection harder to spot.