John George Brown (1831–1913)

Picnic Party in the Woods, 1872

Oil on canvas, 24 5/16 x 44 in. (61.8 x 111.8 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1994.1

Devoting his long and productive career to depictions of American children in both rural and urban environments, the British-born artist John George Brown made paintings replete with narrative and moral content. In Picnic Party in the Woods, several figures representing various ages are engaged in summertime leisure activities, a device Brown presents as an analogy of human life. Shown as in a theater production, they evoke the Shakespearian conceit of the world as a stage and its inhabitants advancing through the “seven ages” of man. At the center, a group illuminated by full sunshine is playing the popular Victorian game Oats, Peas, Beans, and Barley Grows. Influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites, who advocated exacting fidelity in representations of nature, Brown’s detailed image of happy children also encourages a spirit of regeneration and unity following the American Civil War (1861–65).

Learn more about this painting on the Terra Foundation website.