Oliver Cromwell’s Unlucky Picnic in Hyde Park

Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector of England, “picnicked” in Hyde Park in 1654. According to Cromwell's secretary of state Edmund Ludlow, “His highness, only accompanied with secretary Thurloe and some few of his gentlemen and servants, went to take the air in...

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Samuel Pepys’ “Frolique” is a Picnic

Samuel Pepys’ “frolique” is our picnic was a favorite way for him to spend an afternoon with friends idling. We know this from his Diary, a frank glimpse of his personal and professional lives, begun when he was thirty-seven, and continued for the next decade. Among...

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Crispijn de Passe’s Picnic in New Mirror for Youth

As early as the 16th century, the Dutch had no specific word for what is the equivalent of our picnic, but they were adept at alfresco entertaining. It’s evident in their paintings and in so-called emblem books, primers or handbooks, meant to instruct youthful...

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Dumas’ Musketeers picnic on the battlefield

Among picnics on the battlefield the déjeuner sur l’herbe in The Three Musketeers sets the pattern for sardonic humor. It’s meant as yet another instance of the Musketeers’ bravado, but Alexandre Dumas and Auguste Maquet (his co-author) add comic relief to the serious...

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Andreyev’s Nightmare Picnic

Leonid Andreyev’s The Red Laugh is antiwar horror story about Russia’s war in Manchuria. The novel is constantly downbeat and each of its chapters is a fragment, the first of which begins “Horror and Madness.” The picnic happens after soldiers on the front lines drag...

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Andreyev’s Nightmare Picnic with Samovar

The picnic in Leonid Andreyev’s The Red Laugh is a nightmarish description of soldiers on the front lines dragging a comrade who is already dead to safety. Their universe the narrator says says is “red” and making a sardonic joke that no one else understands he says...

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Vargas Ilosa Turns Picnic Topsy-Turvy

According to expectation, Don Rigoberto assumes a picnic is always happy. However, the hero of Mario Vargas Llosa's Don Rigoberto’s Note Books stretches his imagination not to believe otherwise.   Having endured deep family and personal stress, Rigoberto tries to...

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Death by Fire in the East River

Searching for the joy and peace of a picnic doesn’t always mean it’s attainable. One thousand congregants of St. Mark's Lutheran Church boarded the steamship General Slocum, at its birth on the East River in lower Manhattan and died. They expected a pleasant journey...

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When Silenus’ Donkey Brayed

When Alfonso d’Este, the Duke to Ferrara and his wife Lucrezia Borgia, asked for a painting expressing worldly delights, drinking, and sensuality, Giovanni Bellini complied. Now ending a successful career as a painter of Madonnas, saints, popes, here he is...

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Wilson’s War Picnic

Ernest Hemingway thought Sloan Wilson’s The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1955) was trash, probably because he found the hero unbelievable, and the war just an excuse for a sexual romance. But the public thought otherwise. It was a best seller and immediately adapted...

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Passari’s Lovers in a Garden

Giovanni Baptista Pesseri’s A Party Feasting in a Garden seems a happy end to an alfresco luncheon. Young couples are deep in conversation flirting and courting, which suggests that this is a garden of love. It casual and innocent, though Pessari is a moralist, and...

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A.T. Smith’s Picnic Fiasco “Slicing the Wasps”

The humor of Smith's picnic fiasco "Slicing the Wasps" is obvious. The legend reads: "Suitable for both sexes, young and old. Fascinating, amusing, skillful exciting, and with that element of danger." It's also an allusion to  to John Leech's Punch cartoon "The Awful...

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Bransom’s The River Bank Picnic in The Wind in the Willows

Among the numerous illustrators of I, Paul Bransom’s standout because his portrayal of the character tend to look like animals they are. This is especially evident ion the flyleaf illustration of the “The River Bank.” Others of Bransom’s are more anthropocentric, but...

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Wilfred Toadflax is a Gourmand

Wilfred Toadflax's surprise birthday is a picnic feast of picnic feast of cakes and pies and jellies and fruits. It's the kind of high carb meal that makes your teeth hurt. Mr. Apple's grace suggests that the food is local, but not as he suggest from "our green...

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Lambert’s Box Hill Picnics

Even if George Lambert knew the French word pique-nique, he would not use to describe an outing on the grass because it was not used in this context. By French custom it was an indoor meal. Moreover, there is no evidence the English used pique-nique in writing or...

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Bonnard’s By the Sea, Under the Pines

By the Sea, Under the Pines (1921) is Pierre Bonnard’s picnic of mood and atmosphere not food and drink. It’s situated on the bluff near St. Tropez overlooking the brilliant blue ocean. Around the woman, a man, a child and a recumbent dog, everything is gold, yellow,...

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O’Brien’s Ants

Ants at a picnic always serve for picnic humor not because they have interrupted picnics but because it is cute to presume that they do. But who is really bothered by ants? John O’Brien achieves stasis in “Ants at a Picnic”: his picnickers and ants below them are...

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Robinson’s Zoo Picnic

The zany humor of “Just a Picnic at Whipsnade” is Heath Robinson’s trademark. Of the two picnics here, the lion has got the better deal. It also helps knowing that Whipsnade is England’s biggest zoo, near Luton, an hour and twenty minutes north of London. Featured...

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Racetrack Satire by Leech

The London Stock Exchange’s reaction to a current financial panic is the butt of John Leech’s “The Currency Question, or The Exchange Out for a Day.” Picnicking in troubled times, a racectrack, is risible, but then again, Leech implies, buying and selling stocks is a...

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De Brunhoff’s Picnic on Another Planet

Laurent de Brunhoff ‘s Babar Visits Another Planet (1972) begins at the start of yet another family picnic until a rocketship upsets the fun. Then Babar, Celeste, their children Pom, Flora, Arthur, cousin Alexander, and the monkey Zephir, are sucked into the rocket...

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Meléndez’ La Merienda

Luis Egidio Meléndez' The Afternoon Meal (1771c.)  is a wonderful example of his skill at painting still life, especially of food. The original title La Merienda], indicates that this is suggests an afternoon snack, which the Spanish sometimes refer to as a...

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Morse’s Moon Mice

Brian Morse’s Picnic on the Moon (1990) is a young people’s book with a serious message for world peace. It’s Morse’s notion that while Earthlings picnic on the Moon, they overlook its hidden inhabitants who live in peace surrounded by lunar tranquility. there is...

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Disney’s Mickey and Minnie Singin’ in the Rain

Walt Disney’s seven-minute cartoon The Picnic (1930) packs as many picnic conventions as possible. There's a motorcar drive to the country, a stream, shady tree, a wicker basket, a gingham cloth jammed with a gourmand feast of sandwiches, Swiss cheese, mustard,...

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Betty Boop’s Hotdog

Betty Boop, a pretty, silly woman with a sense of humor, was created by Max Fleischer but drawn by Bud Counihan. Among the cartoon strip episodes is a picnic poking self-deprecating fun at Betty’s career as a movie star, “And I'm to ride in this 'Indian raid” scene,...

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Rowlandson’s Pleasant Outing, circa 1790

When Lord Chesterfield used the word “picnic,” he understood that it was an indoor salon gathering. There was no English word for an alfresco luncheon, as we know them now. So when Thomas Rowlandson included an alfresco luncheon among his catalog of everyday life...

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John Banville picnic in The Sea

John Manville’s The Sea is about a man’s untrustworthy memories—less about his dying wife, and more about his sexual awakening when he was about eleven years old. Looking back, Max Morden realizes that his observations of the Grace family’s beach picnics “changed his...

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Samuel Beckett’s murderous picnic in Malone Dies

Time and details in Beckett’s Malone Dies are contradictory and often obscure. Events of the narrative are especially confusing, especially as it reaches a bloody climax that ends with a picnic where six people are hacked to death. This event is related by the...

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Tony Ray-Jones’ Picnic at Glyndebourne

Tony Ray-Jones’ attitude towards life was to expose its “gentle madness” and “to walk, like Alice, though a Looking-Glass, and find another kind of world with the camera.” He preferred to photograph situations that are “ambiguous and unreal, and the juxtaposition of...

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Ron Howard’s Nerdish Picnic in A Beautiful Mind

Ron Howard’s fictional (and sentimental) A Beautiful Mind is a biography of John Nash, a Nobel Prize winning mathematician. If Nash ever picnicked, his (factual) biographer Sylvia Nasar doesn’t mention it. Undeterred, Howard invents a lovers’ picnic at which Nash...

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Gwen Raverat’s Period Piece Picnics

“Heroic Survivors of the Picnic.” is Gwen Raverat’s bittersweet memory of a miserable picnic. It’s the next-to-last anecdote in her memoir Period Piece: A Cambridge Childhood. I think she means to suggest that life was no picnic, but that she has no remorse. Despite...

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Two Spinsters on the Beach at St. Madoc

William J. Locke’s story “Ladies in Lavender” (1916) doesn’t have a picnic. Charles Dance thought better, an in his screenplay, includes at picnic on the beach in a cove on the coast of Cornwall. The story is simple. Ursula and Janet, spinster sisters, well on in...

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West’s Cardboard Picnic on Lawn of Fiber

The Day of the Locust may have been the best novel ever written about Hollywood, but Nathanael West and his publisher Random House miscalculated. They believed an acerbic satire of the film industry and it’s insidious confusion of illusion and reality would sell, but...

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Kurelek’s Paranoia

William Kurelek said he carried “wretchedness like a heavy stone sewn up inside of me.” At times, the stone was lifted as in two picnic paintings Manitoba Party (1964) and Out of the Maze (1973), each testifying to his recovery from schizophrenia and lost spiritual...

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Charles McCarry’s Picnic on the Grass

The picnic in Charles McCarry’s The Secret Lovers, a Cold War spy-versus-spy novel, is a sly allusion to Édouard Manet’s Le déjeuner sur l’herbe. When Paul Christopher’s boss David Patchen complains that Impressionists bore him and “Picnics explain nothing,” Paul...

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McCarry’s Nightmare Picnic

When picnics are portrayed as unhappy, the contrast is purposeful. The intention of Charles McCarry’s picnic nightmare is to provide a metaphor for the life of Paul Christopher, a Cold War CIA spy still struggling to find his mother, Lori, who was abducted by the...

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George Platt Lynes’ Picnic at Tintagel

So far, I know only this photograph by George Platt Lynes of Cecil Beaton’s set for Frederick Ashton’s ballet Picnic at Tintagel. Ashton’s story of the doomed love affair of Tristram and Isuelt begins circa 1916 and then devolves into the mythological time when...

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Wilfred Toadflax is a Gourmand

Wilfred Toadflax's surprise birthday is a picnic feast of picnic feast of cakes and pies and jellies and fruits. It's the kind of high carb meal that makes your teeth hurt. Mr. Apple's grace suggests that the food is local, but not as he suggest from "our green...

read more

Picnic Quotes

“Now I sometimes say, joking, that war after all is only a long picnic.” Alberto Moravia