Old Women of Arles, from the Volpini Suite: Dessins lithographiques, 1889
Paul Gauguin (French, 1848–1903)
Zincograph on chrome yellow wove paper; first edition; 7 1/2 x 8 1/4 in. (19.1 x 21 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1922 (22.82.2(10))
On the fairgrounds of the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1889, at Volpini's Café des Arts, Gauguin exhibited a brand new suite of ten zincographs printed on bright yellow paper. Known as the Volpini Suite, the prints served as pictorial souvenirs of Gauguin's recent travels in Brittany, Martinique, and Arles.
This print depicts four elderly women walking on a wintry garden path. The bare landscape is punctuated by a large round shrub, a graceful willow, and two tall wrapped trees. The pair in the foreground, one of whom resembles Mme Ginoux, the owner of a famous café in Arles, shield themselves against the cold winds of the mistral with their cloaks. Gauguin found great satisfaction in the appearance of the women he encountered while in the south of France, and rhapsodized about them in a letter: "The women here, with their elegant coiffure, their Grecian beauty, their shawls falling in folds like the primitives, are, I say, like Greek processions." The brightly colored paper Gauguin used in the Volpini Suite is reminiscent of Van Gogh's Yellow House in Arles, where Gauguin had a disastrous stay as Van Gogh's guest in 1888.