This Arlésienne, Mme Ginoux, kept the Café de la Gare at Arles and often came in contact with artists, particularly Gauguin and Van Gogh. Gauguin also painted her, while Van Gogh, who lodged in her house when he first arrived in Arles, remained a close friend throughout his stay. Suffering from "nervous attacks" herself, Mrs Ginoux looked after Van Gogh when he was hospitalised in December 1888.
Referring several times in his letters to the beauty of women dressed in their regional costume, he wrote to his brother Théo: "At last I have an Arlesienne, a figure knocked off in an hour, the background a pale lemon, the face grey, the clothes black, black black, and raw Prussian blue. She is leaning on a green table and sitting on an orange wooden armchair." The search for popular types and the obsession with portraits came together in The Arlesienne. Although it is impressively large, the portrait took only an hour to paint, the swift brush strokes contrasting with the meditative pose.
Without hiding her physical defects, which he even accentuates to bring out the model's unique human qualities, the painter isolates his figure against an almost garish yellow background, creating a living Provencal icon.