John Sloan (1871-1951)
The Picnic Grounds
Oil on canvas
Overall: 24 × 36 in. (61 × 91.4 cm) Image: 23 9/16 × 35 1/2 in. (59.8 × 90.2 cm)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase
Rights and Reproductions Information
© artist or artist’s estate
John Sloan maintained that his work as an illustrator taught him to “go into the streets and look at life.” Indeed, he based The Picnic Grounds on an observed incident recorded in his diary—a visit to the picnic grounds in Bayonne, New Jersey, on May 30, 1907, to celebrate Decoration Day, now known as Memorial Day. The seemingly rapid brushwork of the painting suits its subject: high-spirited young people enjoying themselves on a spring day. In its attention to the pursuit of pleasure away from labor, the painting documents a pervasive phenomenon: the rise of leisure-time activities and spaces in and around New York City at the turn of the twentieth century. The Picnic Grounds is also notable for its depiction of the interaction between lively female figures and their male counterparts—as opposed to more traditional academic artists, who consistently pictured women as isolated, introspective beings during this period.