Provençal buildings with stucco walls and red-tiled roofs—often, as here, observed from a road turning into the picture—formed one of Cézanne’s favorite subjects. Several seem to have appealed to him as portraits-by-proxy of their owners, but the identity of Maria, after whom the primary building in this work is named, remains a mystery. In terms of composition, the Kimbell painting is a reprise of The House of the Hanged Man (Musée d’Orsay, Paris), which Cézanne showed in 1874 at the first Impressionist exhibition and at the Paris World’s Fair of 1889.
By the late 1870s, Cézanne had devised his hallmark manner of applying color in short parallel strokes, no differently for objects than for empty space. Here the distinctive way in which the trees are rendered with jagged broken lines, along with the density of the sky, relates stylistically to paintings that he made in 1895 at a quarry near the Château Noir. It was at the Château Noir, an unfinished and abandoned nineteenth-century building complex in the Gothic style, visible in the right background of the Kimbell painting, that Cézanne stored his art supplies beginning in 1887.
Landscapes such as this, in which Cézanne shows corners of rural France with simple domestic buildings, were to be a major source of inspiration for Braque and Picasso, and by extension for Cubism and early twentieth-century art.