In Arlésiennes (Mistral), four women walk through the garden. Each one is wrapped in shawls, with the two main figures covering their mouths and expressing enigmatic gazes. Two orange cones represented wrapped shrubs, indicating the scene is set in colder months. The cold wind in the region is known as the mistral. A bench on the upper left corner disregards logical perspective. A bush on the lower left side looks to have a nose and eyes, suggesting a presence looking back at the viewer.
Gauguin spent two months living and working with Van Gogh in Arles, France. During his stay, he lived at Van Cough residence at the Yellow House. Gauguin first used a sketchbook to plan the painting from his bedroom window. The sketch included the main figures and their headdresses as well as other features in the garden like the fountain and bench. An oil on jute canvas, Arlésiennes (Mistral) measures 73 by 92 centimetres (28 3/4 by 36 3/16 inches). On the lower left corner is inscribed "P Gauguin. '88". Arlésiennes (Mistral) exemplifies Gauguin's desire to showcase harmony and symbolism through his paintings. The painting illustrates mystery and emotions in the appearances of its subjects. While the actual meaning of Arlésiennes (Mistral) is unclear, it likely represents repressed emotion. The painting also evokes a somber feeling with the figures' muted and blank expressions that convey grief.
Van Gogh created a painting with the same scene, which can be found at Saint Petersburg's State Hermitage Museum in Russia. While similar, Gauguin depicts a scene that is less spontaneous and deliberate. The way space is handles as well as the mysterious silhouettes and flat areas of colour are carefully planned by the painter. Arlésiennes (Mistral) was sold to Theo van Gogh for 300 Francs in 1889. After exchanging owners on several occasions, the artwork was sold to the Art Institute of Chicago in 1934 with funds from the Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Larned Coburn Memorial Collection. The painting is on display at the Art Institute of Chicago in the United States. You can find it in Gallery 241 within the Art Institute's Painting and Sculpture of Europe collection.