Oliver Cromwell’s Unlucky Picnic in Hyde Park (1654)

Oliver Cromwell’s Unlucky Picnic in Hyde Park (1654)

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’ Diary 1664 & 1667

Samuel Pepys’ Diary 1664 & 1667

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 (1617)

Crispijn de Passe’s Picnic in New Mirror for Youth (1617)

As early as the 16th century, the Dutch had no specific word for 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 aristocrats in...

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Alexandre Dumas’  The Three Musketeers (1844)

Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers (1844)

Among battlefield picnics, The Three Musketeers sets the pattern for sardonic humor. It’s meant as yet another instance of the Musketeers’ bravado. Still, Alexandre Dumas and Auguste Maquet (his co-author) add comic relief to the serious Siege of La Rochelle and the...

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Leonid Andreyev’s  The Red Laugh (1904)

Leonid Andreyev’s The Red Laugh (1904)

Leonid Andreyev’s The Red Laugh is an 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...

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Mario Vargas Ilosa’s The Notebooks of Don Rigoberto (1998)

Mario Vargas Ilosa’s The Notebooks of Don Rigoberto (1998)

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, insurance...

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General Slocum Picnic Disaster (1891)

General Slocum Picnic Disaster (1891)

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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Giovanni Bellini’s Feast of the Gods (1514)

Giovanni Bellini’s Feast of the Gods (1514)

Giovanni Bellini was eighty-five(?) and in failing health, when Alfonso d'Este his wife Lucrezia Borgia, commissioned a scene intended for their Alabaster Chamber, Camerino d'alabastro. They requested, too, that the subject must be delightfully worldly and sensual....

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Giovanni Passeri’s  A Party Feasting (1645c.)

Giovanni Passeri’s A Party Feasting (1645c.)

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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Emperor Maximilien’s Halte de Chasse circa 1531

Emperor Maximilien’s Halte de Chasse circa 1531

Bernard Van Orley’s The Month of June from the series of hunting motifs known as The Hunts of Maximilian [Les Chasses de Maximilien] (1531-1533) contrast with the assembly in Gaston Phoebus’s The Book of the Hunt (1389). Instead of the hunter’s table at sunrise, Orley...

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Edward Langley’s The Master of Game (1413)

Edward Langley’s The Master of Game (1413)

When Edward Langley, 2nd Duke of York, translated Gaston’s The Book of the Hunt (1389) into English in 1413, French was still the language of the Court and elsewhere. Whatever Edward had in mind, the translation the signaled the linguistic shift in English society,...

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Jan Miel’s La Merienda (1650s)

Jan Miel’s La Merienda (1650s)

Jan Miel’s tired hunters halt on the hunt by a rustic inn. They are clustered around a cloth on the ground organizing a meal of sliced ham, cheese, bread, and wine. A century later, Jean-Antoine Watteau's and followers' repas de chasse are exclusively portrayed as...

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Albrecht Dürer’s Hercules at the Crossroads (1498c)

Albrecht Dürer’s Hercules at the Crossroads (1498c)

Xenophon’s Memorabilia of Socrates (371BCE) tells that when Hercules was approaching manhood, he was given a choice of a life of pleasure or a life of virtue. While sitting at a crossroad and considering his future, he is approached by two immortal women, Virtue, in a...

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Lennart Anderson’s Idylls (1955-2015)

Lennart Anderson’s Idylls (1955-2015)

Anderson series of Idylls are picnicky, filled with people happily dancing and singing on the grass. He called the first Bacchanal and the other Idylls. In an interview, Anderson referenced Matisse’s Luxe, Calme et Volupté as a modern arcadian idyll but does not...

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D.H. Lawrence’s Aaron’s Rod (1922)

D.H. Lawrence’s Aaron’s Rod (1922)

Aaron Sissons, the protagonist of D. H. Lawrence’s Aaron's Rod, leaves his wife and three young children to find himself. Something he never does. The “rod” is his flute, which he plays well enough to earn a modest living. It is also a pun on his sexuality and the...

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Laura Knight’s Picnics (1907-1912)

Laura Knight’s Picnics (1907-1912)

Knight developed her style while at the Lamorna Art Colony in west Cornwall.  She was nineteen years old and married to Harold Knight. Among more experienced artists and in congenial surroundings, she realized the freedom of expression and technique throughout her...

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John Leech’s Awful Appearance of Wopps at a Picnic (1849)

Knowing that any picnic might dissolve in chaos when attacked by a flying critter, readers of Punch, Britain’s premier satirical magazine, laughed at Leech’s mock tragedy. They might have also smiled patronizingly at the verbal pun “wopps,” the Cockney pronunciation...

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Virginia Woolf’s The Voyage Out (1915)

Virginia Woolf’s The Voyage Out (1915)

Woolf’s picnic on the summit of Monte Rosa, a fictional place in South America, is the high point (pun intended) of The Voyage Out (1915). Journeying on donkeys walking in a single file, the narrator creates the image of “a jointed caterpillar, tufted with the white...

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Walt Disney’s Donald Duck’s Picnic (1939)

Walt Disney’s Donald Duck’s Picnic (1939)

At first, Donald Duck’s beach picnic is a pleasant outing. Donald and Pluto set up on the beach for a perfect day. Donald plants an umbrella for shade and spreads a blanket for food. Expectations are high. It doesn’t last, as usual. The picnic turmoil is classic....

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James Gillray  and the Pic Nics (1801-1803)

James Gillray and the Pic Nics (1801-1803)

­Picnic, the phonetic spelling of pique-nique, owes its introduction in English parlance to the Pic Nics, a London club that had a brief run from 1801-1803. We remember Pic Nics now mainly because James Gillray lampooned and mocked them. We remember that this was the...

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John Byng’s The Torrington Diaries (1792)

John Byng’s The Torrington Diaries (1792)

Among his many adventures traipsing about England, John Byng was proud of picnicking on the far side of High Force though the experience was miserably wet. After spending an uncomfortable night in an inn, Byng hired a guide. Then, stuffing his pockets with eatables,...

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Frederick Henry Townsend’s Zeppelin Picnic (1915)

Frederick Henry Townsend’s Zeppelin Picnic (1915)

Even after zeppelin attacks on London in May and June, Brits are undeterred and cannot refrain from picnicking even under threat of being gassed. Acid satire by F.H. Townsend. Featured Image: Even under threat of attack, Upper-class Brits cannot refrain from...

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Michael Bond’s Paddington at the Sea-Side (1975)

Michael Bond’s Paddington at the Sea-Side (1975)

Paddington at the Seaside begins: "Today," said Mr. Brown at breakfast one bright, summer morning, "feels like the kind of day for taking a young bear to the sea-side. Hands up all those who agree." So, the Browns pack up the motorcar and drive off. Wearing his...

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Samuel Foote’s Nick-Nack (1772)

Samuel Foote’s Nick-Nack (1772)

Samuel Foote's comic play The Nabob, now obscure, is the first linkage of picnic with the euphemism "nick-nack." He used in the sense of dining en piquenique, which suggests familiarity. The alliterative corruption is meant to be humorous for those in the know of the...

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P.H. Newby’s The Picnic at Sakkara (1955)

P.H. Newby’s The Picnic at Sakkara (1955)

Newby’s Picnic At Sakkara is a comic novel set during political and international turmoil in Egypt.   At the time of Newby’s action around 1946-47, the British are still in control of the Suez Canal, the Farouk regime was wobbling, and Egyptian nationalism led by the...

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John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids (1951)

John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids (1951)

Bill Masen and Josella Platon have survived the vicious triffids, mutant plants with a taste for human flesh and blood. Exhausted and desperate for safety, they are stranded in a ruined landscape of Southampton. Wistfully, they are waiting to escape to Isle of Wight,...

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Martin Amis’ Dead Babies (1975)

Martin Amis’ Dead Babies (1975)

Appleseed Rectory in Amis’ Dead Babies alludes to Lindsay’s Appleyard College in Picnic at Hanging Rock. Like Lindsay’s picnic, Amis’ is a disaster. Though none of his Appleseeders dies, they are as the title suggests figuratively "dead babies." The Appleseders'...

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Larry Rivers’ Picnics (1985-1990)

Larry Rivers’ Picnics (1985-1990)

Rivers' appreciation of Fernand Léger is expressed in two paintings, Picnic (1985) and The Pleasant Picnic (1990). Picnic closely follows Léger's  La Partie de Champagne (The Country Outing)  (1952/53), showing a congenial group at the edge of a river or somesuch body...

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William Klein’s Fashion Models at a Picnic (1958)

William Klein’s Fashion Models at a Picnic (1958)

When Aaron Schuman asked Klein if he dreamed  in black and white, Klein shot back, “In black and white, of course.” But his photograph Tatiana + Marie Rose + Camels, Morocco, he had it both ways.  Featured Image:  William Klein. Tatiana + Marie Rose + Camels, Morocco,...

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Fred Cress’ An Outing (1996)

Cress’ An Outing defies expectation. No one that I know has managed to project such a cantankerous couple on the grass. Cress is surely squinting at Manet’s Déjeuner sur l’herbe. Maybe? Not happy! See Fred Cress. An Outing (1996)

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James Hilton’s Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1934)

James Hilton’s Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1934)

Hilton’s romantic Goodbye, Mr. Chips describes the courtship of Chip and Katherine as being so brief that within a week of meeting, “they were head over heels in love” and married soon after. This is not what a filmmaker wants in a romantic tale. The consequence is...

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Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961)

Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961)

Spark's Brodie sometimes took the girls into the Marcia Blaine school garden for a lesson. But it was a lesson and not a picnic. But Ronald Neame’s film picnic with Jean Brodie and her girls is his own invention. For the film, Neame and screenwriter Jay Pressen...

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P.D. James’ A Certain Justice (1987)

P.D. James’ A Certain Justice (1987)

Adam Dalgliesh takes a break during a murder investigation for a picnic. An hour south of Salisbury near Lulworth Cove, he stops. " There was an out of rocks, and he sat with one at his back and gazed out over the coppices to the wide blue stretch of the Channel. He...

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William Goldman’s The Princess Bride (1973)

William Goldman’s The Princess Bride (1973)

Rob Reiner is faithful to William Goldman’s novel The Princess Bride, for which Goldman wrote the screenplay.  “Indeed,” he writes in the novel, Vizzini, “had set out a little picnic spread. From the knapsack that he always carried, he had taken a small handkerchief,...

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Günter Grass’s The Flounder (1977)

Günter Grass’s The Flounder (1977)

Grass’s unconventional picnic in The Flounder (1977) is among the worst. Not only does Grass mock the accepted idea of a picnic but, in doing so, turns Greek mythology topsy-turvy. It’s an episode in which the key figure is Sybille, aka Billie, a name that is a...

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Charles Coe’s Picnic on the Moon (1999)

Charles Coe’s Picnic on the Moon (1999)

Charles Coe's poem "Picnic on the Moon,” Picnic on the Moon (1999), is not sci-fi. It’s a critique of human violence and enmity on Earth set against the Moon's tranquility and quiet. The Moon sounds like the perfect picnic spot- a great place to bask in the warm solar...

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Edna Ferber’s Giant (1952)

Edna Ferber’s Giant (1952)

Giant is Ferber’s novel about how a Virginia belle, Leslie Lynton, learns to be a Texan. Among her lessons is what to eat during a Texas-style picnic at her husband Reata,  Jordan’s ranch. At first, Leslie realizes that what she is looking at is “no ordinary picnic...

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Picnic Quotes

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