The painting contains tropical vegetation on a mountainside, but the centre of attraction is three women and a white horse. The women seem to be enjoying the serene environment and the forest's privacy as they are comfortable to play without clothes. Only one woman has all the clothes on as the woman on the horse is nude, and the one standing in front of the horse is half nude. Another notable feature in the image is the single white cross on the hilltop behind the women. The cross is a visual acknowledgement of the presence of French missionaries in the colony. It marks the Catholic cemetery where he was laid to rest a short time after completing this painting.
The white horse in the image probably has a symbolic meaning related to the Polynesian beliefs about life and death. The Polynesians associated white with death and the worship of their gods. The last individual owner of the painting (John T. Spaulding) bequeathed it to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in 1948, where it is located to date. Before devoting his life to painting, Gauguin was a Parisian stockbroker, but he developed an interest in painting after meeting with artist Camille Pissarro and viewing the first impressionist exhibition. He would later join the Colarossi Academy and started collecting the works of impressionists. He also exhibited his collection with impressionists from 1876 to 1886, but painter Emale Bernad, whom he met in Pont-Aven, influenced him to ditch impressionism, and he developed a less naturalistic style that he called synthetism.
Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh also influenced Gauguin's art style by introducing him to Japanese prints when they spent two months together in Arles, south of France, in 1888. Gauguin's new style after meeting Van Gogh was characterised by the use of large flat areas of non-naturalistic colour. When he moved to Tahiti, the use of tropical setting and the Polynesian culture as the main subjects of his paintings also influenced his painting style.