Mistral studied law and in 1854 helped found the Felibrige, an association devoted to promoting the language and literature of Provence. With Joseph Roumanille he set out to standardize Provencal grammar and spelling.
Mistral's verse romance Mireio (1859; Eng. trans., 1867) was immediately recognized as a masterpiece and later adapted by the composer Charles Gounod as an opera, Mireille. Nerto (1884), based on a medieval legend, was almost equally popular. Mistral's other works include an epic, Lou Pouemo dou Rose (1897; trans. as The Song of the Rhone, 1937) and collections of shorter poems. He also compiled a Provencal dictionary (1878-86) and set up (1904) a museum in Arles illustrating Provencal life.
Bibliography: Aldington, Richard, Introduction to Mistral (1956); Edwards, Tudor, The Lion of Arles; A Portrait of Mistral and His Circle (1964); Lyle, Rob, Mistral (1953).
Mistral's poems deal with nature, biblical motifs, death, platonic love, and especially love of children and of the dispossessed; they are permeated by feelings of sadness, compassion, asceticism, unsatisfied maternal longing, and communion with the land. Selected poems have been translated by Langston Hughes (1957) and Doris Dana (1971).
Bibliography: Arce de Vasquez, Margot, Gabriela Mistral: The Poet and Her Work (1964); Taylor, Martin C., Gabriela Mistral's Religious Sensibility (1968).