Menander’s The Bad Tempered Man (316 BCE)

Menander’s The Bad Tempered Man (316 BCE)

Menander's comedy The Bad-Tempered Man [aka Dyskolos] was lost for centuries until discovered in the 1950s. A pivotal episode is a pilgrimage to the shrine of Pan at Phyle on a hillside in what is now Athens, where a sacrificial meal will cooked to appease the god....

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Omar Khayyám’s The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám (1100c.)

Omar Khayyám’s The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám (1100c.)

Omar Khayyam is better known for his love poems than his philosophy. His vision of lovers picnicking is in Rubáiyát "XI" in the collection of his poetry titled The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, most often read in Edward Fitzgerald translation: A Book of Verses underneath...

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Murasaki Shikibu’s The Tale of Genji (1000c.)

Murasaki Shikibu’s The Tale of Genji (1000c.)

to relax at a palace fishing pavilion with close friends. Arthur Whaley translates the outing as a picnic, though Lady Murasaki has no such vocabulary word. The chapter is "Wild Carnations" or Tokonatsu One very hot day Genji, finding the air at the New Palace in...

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Jacques du Fouilloux’s La Venerie

Jacques du Fouilloux’s La VenerieHunting (1561)

Fouilloux's La Venerie, aka Hunting, shows a significant shift so that the repas chasse is a halt during the hunt attended only by men.  However, when George Gascoigne adapted La Venerie for his The Noble Arte of Venerie or Hunting (1575), includes Elizabeth I to the...

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John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667/74)

John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667/74)

The Book of Genesis is mum about the first couple's eating and dining habit. But Milton's Paradise Lost presents Adam and Eve picnicking on the grass in Paradise. Of course, Milton does not use the word picnic or any such euphemism. He but knows the concept and uses...

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Lucas van Valckenborch’s The Month of May (1587)

Lucas van Valckenborch’s The Month of May (1587)

Valckenborch’s Spring, aka Frühlingslandschaft (Mai), depicts the new season arousing a desire for revelry after winter’s confinement. It’s part of a series of calendar paintings celebrating the months of the year and appropriate seasonal activities. Though, in this...

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Sevso and Casena Hunting Plates (Late 4th Century)

Sevso and Casena Hunting Plates (Late 4th Century)

The Sevso Plate * (27.8 inches in diameter) may also reference a hunting feast describe by the roman writer Philostratus. But the iconography is Christian. The Chi-Rho situated at the apex of the legend on the plate's circumference is a symbol for Jesus Christ...

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Philostratus’s Imagines (250-300 CE)

Philostratus’s Imagines (250-300 CE)

Hunting feasts have a long history. Among the Romans, one such by Philostratus Elder uses the rhetorical device of Ekphrasis, a verbal description of a visual representation, to illustrate a painting he observed in Naples. Ironically, none survive, if they existed at...

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Fernando Arrabal’s Picnic on the Battlefield (1959)

Fernando Arrabal’s Picnic on the Battlefield (1959)

The big idea in Arrabal's Picnic on the Battlefield is the stupidity of war. * Originally Pique-nique en campagne, the title was changed for American readers. The play is Aligned with the Absurdists, such as Beckett and Ionesco. Arrabal was a founder (among others) of...

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Cristoforo de Predis’s The Garden of Delights (1470c.)

Cristoforo de Predis’s The Garden of Delights (1470c.)

De Predis’ Venus: The garden of delights representing the joyful influence Venus exerts on mortals is an illustration for The Sphere of the Cosmos, De Sphaerae  (1466 or later). The original treatise dating from 1230c describes Venus’ feast day celebrated when Venus...

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Oliver Goldsmith’s “Retaliation” (1774)

Goldsmith’s “Retaliation” left unfinished at his death, alludes to dining “en piquenique” with mentioning the word. Motivated for being slighted by his friends, Goldsmith decided to get even at the dinner table. Attempting to get even with slights endured from...

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Thomas Rowlandson’s Richmond Bridge, Surrey (after 1803)

Thomas Rowlandson’s Richmond Bridge, Surrey (after 1803)

Rowlandson’s Richmond Bridge, Surrey documents a picnic party at low tide on the Thames’s sandy shore opposite Hampton Court. It was common for Londoners to hire a water taxi to transport picnicker out of the city and into the country for an afternoon of eating and...

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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)

A Aaron Sissons, the protagonist of  Lawrence's Aaron's Rod, leaves his wife and three young children to find himself. He’s unsuccessful. The "rod" is his flute, which he plays well enough to earn a modest living. It is also a pun on his cloudy sexuality, and his need...

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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 congenial surroundings, she realized the freedom of expression and technique that lasted...

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

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, England’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 English 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 the Pic Nics now mainly because James Gillray lampooned and mocked them. We remember that...

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Oscar Hijuelos’s Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love (1989)

Oscar Hijuelos’s Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love (1989)

Oscar Hijuelos's Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love (1989) is about Cuban immigrants in the 1950s. Music and food sometimes blend, and at a hotel club, there are platters of roast suckling pig, rice and beans, and a chocolate-éclair cake drenched in honey. But for a...

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Sophie von Hellermann’s When he came. . .  (2001)

Sophie von Hellermann’s When he came. . . (2001)

Von Hellermann's When he came. . .   is a feminist complaint about male attitudes and a woman's compliance?  The concept is an allusion to Méret Oppenheim's Le Festin (1959), a Surrealist banquet set on a nude woman's body. Oppenheim originally intended the work to be...

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Edward Albee’s Seascape (1975)

Edward Albee’s Seascape (1975)

Albee's Seascape is set on a beach, the evolutionary boundary from which sea creatures emerged to walk on land.  It begins innocently as Charlie and Nancy Man are just finishing a picnic when they encounter two primordial green lizards, Leslie and Sarah, who have...

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Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin (2000)

Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin (2000)

An intimate picnic in The Blind Assassin is a lover's picnic on the grass that might fleetingly Genesis but more directly alludes to Omar Khayyám's Rubáiyát "XI." Iris Chase has returned from her wedding trip with Richard and is unhappy. By luck, she runs into Alex...

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J.G. Farrell’s The Siege of Khrishnapur  (1973)

J.G. Farrell’s The Siege of Khrishnapur (1973)

Farrell’s picnic in The Siege of Khrishnapur siege is purposely mischaracterized as entertainment for local Indians watching Sepoys attack the official Residency of the East India Company’s residence. It’s a fictional addition to a historical siege lasting five months...

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John Fowles’s The Ebony Tower (1974)

John Fowles’s The Ebony Tower (1974)

Fowles's The Ebony Tower is a sendup of Manet’s Déjeuner sur l’herbe. Although a boat is in the background, it is uncertain how Manet's picnickers arrived for their dejeuner sur l'herbe. Fowles' version of the picnic is definitive; the picnickers walk. The morning...

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Nan Goldin’s CZ and Max on the Beach, Truro, MA  (1976)

Nan Goldin’s CZ and Max on the Beach, Truro, MA (1976)

Goldin’s is a spoof at Mickey Mouse’s expense. “CZ and Max on the Beach, Truro, MA” is a staged picnic of CZ and Max on a picnic cloth next to Mickey Mouse’s picture on the cover of The New York Times Magazine. Goldin seems to be suggesting that such outings are...

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Sally Mann’s Luncheon on the Grass (1991)

Sally Mann’s Luncheon on the Grass (1991)

Mann’s photograph Picnic on the Grass is a portrait of her daughter at a picnic sitting in the same pose as Victorine Meurent, the model for the nude in Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass. Jessie at 7 shows her daughter Jesse sitting on the Grass with a plate of food: a...

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Laura Shaine Cunningham’s A Place in the Country (2000)

Laura Shaine Cunningham’s A Place in the Country (2000)

Laura Cunningham’s memoir A Place in the Country (2000) is suffused with romantic memories of a New York City park where she picnicked with her mother Rosie and eating lunch packed in a paper bag. The sandwiches were made with Wonder Bread, soft bread with no...

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Louis Gluck’s “Noon” (2007)

The setting for Gluck’s “Noon” is about lost innocence. It's a  picnic at which two youths engage in a sexual act without considering what happens next. The unanswered question it whether this is an act of lust or love. Noon is meant to suggest the symbolic time at...

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Felice Benuzzi No Picnic on Mount Kenya (1952)

Felice Benuzzi No Picnic on Mount Kenya (1952)

Benuzzi's original title for his memoir was Fuga sul Kenya – 17 giorni di liberta [Escape on Kenya – 17 days of liberty]. But being deeply impressed by Vivienne de Watteville's Speak to the Earth, her memoir of camping on Mount Kenya, * he renamed the narrative No...

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John O’Hara’s “A Few Trips and Some Poetry” (1968)

John O’Hara’s “A Few Trips and Some Poetry” (1968)

O'Hara's "A Few Trips and Some Poetry "is a long story about a picnic in which the pleasure of sharing is sexual. O'Hara's picnic-sex episode provides a memory that lasts a lifetime.   What is served at this picnic is not the usual picnic fare, and no food is...

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Picnic Quotes

“I know just what you want—you want a house where they go in for theatricals and picnics and that sort of thing.” Henry James. The Portrait of a Lady (1881)