Thomas Cole undertook this painting in the fall of 1845 in response to a generous commission from the wealthy New York banker and philanthropist James Brown. Cole chose the subject of a picnic to describe the ideal coexistence of nature and civilization. The demand for paintings like this one that combined the figural and natural was a result, at least in part, of the rising popularity of outdoor leisure-time pursuits, including excursions such as picnics. However, hints of time’s passage and mortality invade this otherwise lighthearted scene through the ax-cut tree stump so prominent in the foreground.
(Text by the Brooklyn Museum, CC BY 3.0).