The drawing displays a series of houses in a small village, with some trees placed in the background. He would travel around the countryside, studying the environment and sometimes capturing it within his sketchbooks. They offered him the ability to work whenever the feeling took him, which in his case was frequently. In other parts of this sketchbook you will discover a good number of portraits of his friends and family, and this genre could be taken on with little or no planning, in a similar way to many of his still life works where all he needed was a table and some fruit and a little privacy to work. Cezanne seemed happier when living in rural areas such as these, and his early work in Paris was noticeably darker in tone as he grappled with the challenge of developing a style all of his own.
The drawing in front of us is dated at around 1877-1880, with the other pieces in this book stretching across a much wider time period. It is hard to be sure about why this is, as Cezanne used many other books within his lifetime, and so why would he use this one over such a long period? Another important thing to note is that this is just one of a few to remain in good order, with all of the artworks still in the order that Cezanne produced them, with the binding still in good condition. Sadly, most others were broken up in order to maximise sales return by their respective owners, something that the artist would never have been happy about, were he still alive at the time. Cezanne found a great charm within the architecture of the countryside and felt a better connection between it and the surrounding natural environment, as opposed to the hectic, cramped city life that he experienced whilst living in Paris.
It was the famous Mellon family who passed ownership of the sketchbook over to the impressive American art institution as part of a generous donation from their collection. They also handed over a number of the artist's paintings as well, plus items from other artists as well. Their actions have helped to further boost the offering of this establishment, whose collection now runs into the many thousands, with most having been bequethed in ways such as this, with some other items purchased privately which are the common ways used by most American galleries and museums who have benefitted from the large number of private collectors who exist across the country.