Oliver Cromwell’s Unlucky Picnic in Hyde Park

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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George Cruikshank’s Pic Nic disturbed by a Swarm of Bees

George Cruikshank’s Pic Nic disturbed by a Swarm of Bees

Round up the usual suspects! Featured Image: George Cruikshank. Pic Nic disturbed by a Swarm of Bees. Aquatint. London: George Humphrey, 1826;    http://images.library.yale.edu/walpoleweb/oneitem.asp?imageId=lwlpr12922.  A black and white print is the British Museum...

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Samuel Pepys’ “Frolique” is a Picnic

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

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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Alexandre Dumas’ Musketeers Picnic

Alexandre Dumas’ Musketeers Picnic

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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Leonid Andreyev’s Nightmare Picnic

Leonid 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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Leonid Andreyev’s Nightmare Picnic with Samovar

Leonid 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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Mario Vargas Ilosa Turns Picnic Topsy-Turvy

Mario 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

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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Bellini’s Feast of the Gods

Bellini’s Feast of the Gods

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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Passari’s Lovers in a Garden

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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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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Langley’s The Master of Game

Langley’s The Master of Game

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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Lennart Anderson’s Idylls

Lennart Anderson’s Idylls

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 Picnic on a Train in Aaron’s Rod

D.H. Lawrence’s Picnic on a Train in Aaron’s Rod

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 need...

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Laura Knight’s Picnics

Laura Knight’s Picnics

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 a freedom of expression and technique that lasted...

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John Leech’s Awful Appearance of Wopps at a Picnic

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 picnic on Monte Rosa (The Voyage Out)

Virginia Woolf’s picnic on Monte Rosa (The Voyage Out)

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 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

Walt Disney’s Donald Duck’s Picnic

At first Donald Duck’s beach picnic is a pleasant outing. Donald and Pluto setup 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. Featured Image: The surf is clam but...

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George Cruikshank’s Pic Nic disturbed by a Swarm of Bees

George Cruikshank’s Pic Nic disturbed by a Swarm of Bees

Round up the usual suspects! Featured Image: George Cruikshank. Pic Nic disturbed by a Swarm of Bees. Aquatint. London: George Humphrey, 1826;    http://images.library.yale.edu/walpoleweb/oneitem.asp?imageId=lwlpr12922.  A black and white print is the British Museum...

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Frederick Henry Townsend’s Zeppelin Picnic

Frederick Henry Townsend’s Zeppelin Picnic

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 are unable to refrain from...

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

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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Wilfred Toadflax is a Gourmand

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bill Masen and Josella Platon, exhausted survivors of vicious triffids, mutant plants with a taste for human flesh and blood, are stranded in a ruined landscape of Southampton. Wistfully, they are waiting to escape to Isle of Wight, a new Eden, which has been cleared...

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Kate Atkinson Started Early, Took my Dog for a Walk (2010)

Kate Atkinson Started Early, Took my Dog for a Walk (2010)

Killing time. That’s what Atkinson uses a picnic for in Started Early, Took my Dog for a Walk. But in the TV series Case Histories is cut and replaced with an afternoon snack in a cafe. Importantly, what else is cut is a typical example of Atkinson’s method of...

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William Klein’s Fashion Models at a Picnic

William Klein’s Fashion Models at a Picnic

When Aaron Schuman asked do you dream 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 Imaged:  William Klein. Tatiana + Marie Rose + Camels, Morocco,...

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Fred Cress’ An Outing

Cress’ An Outing defies expectation. No one that I know has managed to project such a cantankerous couple on the grass. I surly slap at Manet’s Déjeuner sur l’herbe. Maybe? Not happy! See: Fred Cress. An Outing (1996),Synthetic polymer paint on canvas

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P.D. James’ Adam Dalgliesh Picnics

P.D. James’ Adam Dalgliesh Picnics

Adam Dalgliesh takes a break during 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 had...

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Günter Grass’ Barbaric Picnic in The Flounder

Günter Grass’ Barbaric Picnic in The Flounder

Grass’ 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 variation...

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Charles Coe’s Picnic on the Moon

Charles Coe’s Picnic on the Moon

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 tranquility and quiet of the Moon. The Moon sounds like the perfect picnic spot- a great place to bask in the warm...

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Leonora Carrington’s Surrealistic Pastoral Picnic

Leonora Carrington’s Surrealistic Pastoral Picnic

As with many of Carrington’s surrealistic paintings, they are enigmas. Maybe they are snapshots of her inner life—a mix of personal relationships, dreams, alchemy, astrology, myth, and probably alcohol and drugs influence all. You may find the compositions appealing...

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Barbara Kingsolver’s Picnic in The Poisonwood Bible

Among ruined picnics, Kingsolver’s Congo picnic ranks high. It’s a highlight of misadventure in The Poisonwood Wood Bible, a novel the name of which is derived from a misunderstanding of local language. When Reverend Nathan Price says, "Tata Jesus is bangala!" he...

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John Banville’sThe Sea

John Banville’sThe 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

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’ 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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Gwen Raverat’s Period Piece Picnics

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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Picnic Quotes

“Life is a pic-nic en costume; one must take part, assume as character, stand ready in a sensible way to play the fool. Herman Melville. The Confidence Man (1857)