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 among the Brits, people knew what he meant. Plate 7: Picturesque Studies and Scenes of Everyday Life and People (1790) informs us that this gathering among the gentry enjoying a day out is ordinary. There is a tent and just beside it a cloth on the grass with food and bottles of wine. The party of nine includes four couples, and a single woman. All have come by boat that is moored on the shore. It is a genteel affair that is neither rustic nor ornately artificial. Servants would be attending such a group, but they are not visible. Attire for the women and men is informal, though two men are wearing military uniforms.
Featured Image: Thomas Rowlandson. Plate 7 was part of a series of sixteen etchings published for S.W. Fores, a London printer. The series was unnamed by Fores and Rowlandson until the Royal Collection assigned it the title Picturesque Studies and Scenes of Everyday Life and People (1790).
See: Catalogue of Books Illustrated by Thomas Rowlandson. New York: The Grolier Club 1916, https://archive.org/details/ofbookscatrowlan00grolrich