The Art of Community: James Tissot’s “The Picnic (Dejeuner sur l’Herbe)”

James Tissot (1836-1902)

Summers would not be complete without a picnic.

A lazy August afternoon under a shady tree, a blanket to shield from the damp earth, a basket filled with a delicious repast. Surrounded by the hum of happy chatter, laughter, and  children playing in the background, picnics have enormous healing powers.

As Vancouver’s summer draws to a close, I am enjoying James Tissot’s “The Picnic (Dejeuner sur l’Herbe),” which arrived on my September 2/3 calendar. The scene is a children’s picnic, a women’s gathering. A beloved dog watches in anticipation as the lunch is being served. A young woman turns her head toward me with a gentle smile and gesture, as if to invite me to join.

There is enough room on the blanket. Come…the invitation is open without any qualifying requirements. We are friends.

The breaking of bread, sharing a moment in time, being included within a compassionate community that does not impose rules of engagement brings out the best in all.

I accepted the young women’s invitation to join her. In doing so, I reconnected with others who embrace the art of an inclusive and vibrant community.

25 Comments

  1. valeriedavies

    I have at last found the comments section…I have difficulty navigating your blogs, even though I have been following !!!!
    I love all those painted picnics you mention… what I find so interesting is how much people enjoyed picnics back then for lack of cafes, restaurants, cinema etc !!! When I did a series of Books on NZ based on old photos people sent in, there were so many picnics recorded… picnics before a young man went off to the First World War, picnics for the village, the school, the church, Sunday School, the firm, the farm, the family… everyone elaborately dressed in shady hats, wasp waists ties and boaters, the chilldren in starched white frilly dresses and black stockings and boots ! and often the dog, and the hampers, and the rugs… it must have been a mammoth task to organise, but they always seemed such happy occasions…

    1. Clanmother

      I am so glad you found the comment section. Every WordPress theme is different, which adds to the mystery of virtual communication. I just realized that we would be the last generation to know a time without internet connection. We have entered the mythical World Wide Web of vast communication possibilities. And yet, we continue to struggle with loneliness and isolation. Whatever time we live in there is a need for authentic and life affirming conversation, which I have found within our blogging community. What a joy it must have been to organize those picnic photos – capturing happiness, preserving the moment for others to enjoy. Ah, Valerie, I do love our conversations. Happy Sunday – thank you for adding sunshine to my day.

    1. Clanmother

      Thank you, dear Resa. I am learning how to incorporate blogging within my daily interactions. There is so much joy in “ordinary” moments. When I look back – they were extraordinary, although at the time I did not know how much influence they would have in my future present. Thank you for your marvelous posts that celebrate the creative spirit. Hugs!

  2. Letizia

    Such a charming scene and sentiment. I love the dog, of course, but also all the birds happily eating the crumbs. Our little town has summer concerts once a week for a month in the summer and people bring their picnic blankets and some food and wine, it’s a very charming scene. Wishing you a lovely end of summer, my friend!

    1. Clanmother

      I love those summer picnics, especially when there is a bandstand somewhere in the vicinity. I noticed the dog in the painting, which reminded me of my walks along the Vancouver Seawall by Charleston Park, the place that dogs can run freely. It is a wonderful place to walk by and see all the activities.

  3. ernstblumenstein

    Viele berühmte Maler wie Cezanne, Monet und Manet malten dieses Sujet. Offensichtlich war es zu jener Zeit noch nicht selbstverständlich, draussen in der Natur zu picknicken. Ich wünsche Dir eine schöne Herbstzeit und sende liebe Grüße aus der Schweiz. Ernst

    1. Clanmother

      Es scheint, dass Picknicks ein gemeinsames Thema in der Kunst sind. Thomas Coles “Das Picknick”, das vor 1860 gemalt wurde, zeigt eine Szene mit Leuten, die auf Decken ruhen, Mittagessen essen und einem Gitarristen zuhören. Immer wenn ich einen Picknicktisch sehe, erinnere ich mich an die wunderbare Kindheit Picknick meiner Kindheit. Das Essen schmeckt immer besser im Freien!

    1. Clanmother

      A very interesting point, Gallivanta. The Sunday afternoon picnics of my childhood are wonderful memories, but they required a considerable about of time to plan and prepare. Our meal preferences have changed over the years becoming more of ordering a pizza to take to the local softball game. What hasn’t changed is the idea of getting together and sharing a meal.

      James Tissot was known for “genre painting” – something that I just learned about.Its a style of painting depicting scenes from ordinary, domestic life. I found this painting especially memorable for the relaxed and happy atmosphere.

      1. Gallivanta

        I agree; we still love to gather. I have some old photos of my grandfather at the annual Sunday School picnic. He wasn’t much of a church goer, ever, but the Sunday School picnic gave him a chance to participate in running races, which he loved. Companies used to have staff picnics too.

      2. Clanmother

        What a special photo!! I’m going through my dad’s photos and am always glad when there is a notation attached to the back to indicate who is in the photo. Many of them were taken over meals, especially during harvest time. Photos hold great memories for us to ponder…

    1. Clanmother

      You are very welcome, my dear friend. When I was doing a mini-research project on this painting, I came across Edouard Manet’s painting with the same title: Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe. And then I found that Claude Monet and Paul Cezanne painted the same theme. I love the idea of picnics for it brings us closer to nature, and to those who share the meal with us. There are many stories that are found in the picnic baskets of history/ Thank you for joining me…

  4. Ms Frances

    What a really happy painting, a good reminder of the positive energy of fellowship. This is, I believe, a treasure from our Art Calendar–one of your gifts that bring positive thoughts at the beginning (or end/middle) of the day. And yes, I sometimes peek ahead, which I have done to next weekend’s photo. It is of a family, I believe, at the happy apple harvest time. And I have taken photos of paintings by Monet (my favorite) which appear often in the calendar year. Thank you for such a positive gift and I understand next year’s is already on order. Thank you! And, after all this, thank you for this positive post–a gift for today.!

    1. Clanmother

      I am delighted that you enjoy the art calendar. I just received the 2018 calendar this past week. I must admit that I was tempted to open the packages, but I have refrained from doing so. We’ll celebrate New Year’s Eve by opening the packages! In the busyness of life, my art calendar keeps me focused on creative and artistic endeavours.

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