The Famous Picnic at Val KillArtist(s)Ann Murfee AllenObject Creation Date1975Medium & Supportoil on canvasDimensions
49 in x 37 in (124.46 cm x 93.98 cm);49 in x 37 in (124.46 cm x 93.98 cm)Credit LineGift of The Daniel and Harriet Fusfeld Folk Art CollectionLabel copy
Ann Murfee Allen
United States, 1923–1995
The Famous Picnic at Val-Kill
Oil on canvas
Gift of the Daniel and Harriet Fusfeld Folk Art Collection, 2002/1.178
Ann Murfee Allen performed meticulous research for her large-scale history paintings. In The Famous Picnic at Val-Kill, Allen reconstructs the luncheon at which President Franklin and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt hosted the King and Queen of England on June 11, 1939, at Val-Kill, an upstate New York retreat cottage built by the Roosevelts that later became Eleanor’s private home. Contemporary news reports of the event included details of the Queen’s fashions and the “oddness” of American handshakes to the young royal couple. Allen’s depiction of the interracial gathering reflects the Roosevelts’ commitment to civil rights, decades before the organized civil rights movement began.
(Out of the Ordinary, 2010)
Active in Richmond, Virginia, Anne Murfee Allen began to paint in her late sixties after the death of her husband. Initially, she began to take art classes, but the instructors informed Allen that she was a natural primitive painter and should develop her own style.
This work, The Famous Picnic at Val-Kill, depicts the racially integrated picnic at which President Franklin Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor entertained the King and Queen of England at their estate in Hyde Park, New York. Typically American hot dogs and beer were served. The choice of food, as well as the variety of races and cultures present, illustrate the uniqueness of American culture and the significance of the picnic. One of the first of its kind, this event was a proud presentation of many of the remarkable qualities of American culture.
For many, the picnic at Val-Kill symbolizes the beginning of equal rights. Some believe the Roosevelt administration introduced equal opportunities for minorities and strove to establish more freedom for African Americans in the political process. As an African American living during the Roosevelt presidency, Anne Murfee Allen would have most likely found particular significance in the event at Val-Kill.
Modern and Contemporary Art Intern
The Famous Picnic at Val Kil documents the racially integrated picnic at which President Franklin Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor, entertained the King and Queen of England at their estate in Hyde Park, New York on a Sunday afternoon on June 11, 1939. Many believed the Roosevelt administration introduced equal opportunities for minorities, and for many the picnic at Val Kil symbolizes the beginning of equal rights. As an African American woman living during the Roosevelt presidency, Anne Murfee Allen undoubtedly found particular significance in the event at Val Kil.Physical Description
Primitive painting depicting three sailboats in the foreground, and figures sitting around tables and standing on a lawn in the middle ground, with two houses in the background.Primary Object Classification Painting Primary Object TypehistoricalAdditional Object Classification(s)PaintingCollection AreaModern and ContemporaryRights
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American (North American)
chairs (furniture forms)
folk art (traditional art)