Old Women of Arles, from the Volpini Suite: Dessins lithographiques

Series/Portfolio: Dessins lithographiques

Artist: Paul Gauguin (French, Paris 1848–1903 Atuona, Hiva Oa, Marquesas Islands)

Date: 1889

Medium: Zincograph on chrome yellow wove paper; first edition

Dimensions: 7 1/2 x 8 1/4 in. (19.1 x 21.0 cm)

Classification: Prints

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1922

Accession Number: 22.82.2(10)


On the fairgrounds of the Paris World's Fair 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 a pictorial souvenir 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.