Edward Hicks

Edward Hicks (1780-1849) was an American folk painter whose chief subject was the "Peaceable Kingdom, " based on the biblical prophecy from Isaiah.

Edward Hicks was born on April 4, 1780, in a small Pennsylvania town (now Langhorne). He was orphaned early and boarded out at the age of 3 to David Twining, a Quaker, civic leader, and prosperous farmer near Newtown, Pa.

At 13 Hicks was apprenticed to a coach maker. In 1800 he began working as a journeyman coach painter and 6 months later struck out on his own. When he came of age in 1801, Hicks began to attend Quaker meetings at nearby Middletown. Two years later he applied for Quaker membership there and married Sarah Worstall, whom he had known since childhood. The couple began married life in Milford, Pa., where the first of their four children was born.

Hicks painted an elaborate tavern sign, probably in 1813, the same year that he turned from coach painting to farming. Failing as a farmer, he returned in 1815 to New-town and to painting. That year a Friends' meeting was established there, and the painter met his cousin, Elias Hicks of Long Island, who had founded the Hicksite movement, which urged a return to the principles of the early Quakers. A fireboard painted in 1817 may have been Hicks's first easel painting.

Hicks's 1819 visit to Niagara Falls was used later as the subject of at least two paintings. In 1820, with few painting commissions to occupy him, Hicks visited Elias's Long Island meetings to work for peace among disparate Quaker factions. That year he also painted the first version of the "Peaceable Kingdom, " a favorite subject of which almost 60 versions are extant. In 1827, when a schism developed among the Quakers, Hicks joined his cousin as a member of the dissenting Hicksites.

Hicks continued to paint "Peaceable Kingdom" pictures, both as gifts and as commissions from relatives and friends. In the 1840s he painted the first of several landscapes that range from beautiful and romantic versions of Bucks County, Pa., farms to renditions of the Grave of William Penn, based on a print or book illustration. He painted several versions of other subjects, including Penn's Treaty with the Indians and Washington Crossing the Delaware.

On Aug. 23, 1849, Hicks died in Newtown. According to a contemporary account, his funeral was the largest ever held in Bucks County. More than 100 paintings by this supremely talented, intensely personal, and unique folk artist still exist.


Further Reading on Edward Hicks

The painter's own Memoirs of the Life and Religious Labors of Edward Hicks was published in 1851. The definitive biography is Alice Ford, Edward Hicks: Painter of the Peaceable Kingdom (1952). The most comprehensive exhibition of Hicks's paintings took place in 1960 at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Collection in Williamsburg, Va.; the exhibition's catalog, with an introduction and chronology by Alice Ford, deals directly with his work.

Additional Biography Sources

Andrew Crispo Gallery., Edward Hicks, a gentle spirit: catalog of an exhibition, May 16 thru June 28, 1975, New York: A. Crispo Gallery, 1975.

Ford, Alice, Edward Hicks, his life and art, New York: Abbeville Press, 1985.

Ford, Alice, Edward Hicks, painter of the Peaceable Kingdom, Millwood, N.Y., Kraus Reprint Co., 1973.

Goldstein, Ernest, Edward Hicks' The Peaceable Kingdom, Champaign, Ill.: Garrard Pub. Co., 1982.

Haynes, George Emerson, Edward Hicks, Friends' minister, Doylestown, Pa.: C. Ingerman at the Quixott Press, 1974.

Hicks, Edward, A peaceable season, Princeton, Pyne Press; distributed by Scribner, New York, 1973.

Mather, Eleanore Price, Edward Hicks, his peaceable kingdoms and other paintings, Newark: University of Delaware Press; New York: Cornwall Books, 1983.

Pullinger, Edna S., A dream of peace; Edward Hicks of Newtown, Philadelphia, Dorrance 1973.