The label mentions the rise of outdoor leisure time pursuits around 1845. Why the sudden interest in nature?
Due to the rise in industrialization and the gradual population shift to cities, people became more and more interested in outdoor leisure activities that returned them to a more natural setting.
Painters like Thomas Cole were interested in showing the American landscape as pristine and beautiful. Picnics were one way that humans could coexist with this natural world.
Is this by Thomas Cole?
Yes, it is Thomas Cole! You're a true friend of the Hudson River School. The central figure playing guitar is thought to be painted in tribute to Cole's late friend Cornelius Ver Bryck, who passed away two years earlier.
Cole paid special attention to the composition, with figures radiating out from that central figure at easily understood intervals. He took great care in the objects strewn about the scene (the cooler, dishes, food etc.). The goal was that these items would reveal themselves slowly to a viewer and be rewarding for multiple views. This was a time in American culture when outdoor leisure was becoming very popular, and Cole's choice of a subject reflects that interest.
Can you tell me about this painting?
Thomas Cole was a leading member of the group of landscape painters who came to be known as the Hudson River School. In this work, he shows us a world of outdoor leisure as an escape from the rapidly industrialized and urbanized world of the mid-nineteenth century. In that time, this kind of landscape was seen as a restful place that offers a spiritually elevating experience.
We also know that Cole painted this work on commission for a New York banker and art collector named James Brown.
What a pretty scene!
We think so too! This was painted at a time when more and more people who lived in New York City were visiting the countryside to enjoy fun activities like picnics. This artist, Thomas Cole, was painting an idealized version of what life was really like in 1846! The landscape is still free from development and the weather is perfect, and everyone is enjoying the day in harmony from children to couples. Cole included lots of little details so that every time you look at the painting you can find something new. Do you see the people in the rowboat on the water?
Who is this man with the guitar?
It's thought that the man playing guitar is a tribute to the artist's friend Cornelius Ver Bryck. Bryck passed away two years before Thomas Cole painted this work. This was a way of remembering him.