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Edward Hicks

Edward Hicks (April 14, 1780 – August 23, 1849) was an American Folk painter, a distinguished minister of the Society of Friends, and he also became a Quaker icon because of his paintingsEdward Hicks (April 14, 1780 – August 23, 1849) was an American Folk painter, a distinguished minister of the Society of Friends, and he also became a Quaker icon because of his paintings

Edward Hicks (April 14, 1780 – August 23, 1849) was an American Folk painter, a distinguished minister of the Society of Friends, and he also became a Quaker icon because of his paintings.

Life and career
Edward Hicks was born in his grandfather's mansion at Langhorne, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. He was born into a life of luxury, and his parents were both Anglican. After his mother passed away when he was eighteen months old, Matron Elizabeth Twining - a close friend of his mother's- raised him as one of her own. She also taught him the Quaker beliefs. This had a great effect on the rest of his life.

At the age of thirteen he was an apprentice for coach makers William and Henry Tomlison. He stayed with them for seven years. His living situation inspired him to desire a much better way of life for himself. He wanted a simple, well respected life and to be able to earn his own wages. He wanted to be able to make choices for himself, in all that he did. It was then that he knew that something amusing and entertaining such as a career in art could satisfy his goals. He spent three years contemplating what his life meant to him, and grew a strong passion for art. His religious commitments affected his thoughts on living and art in many ways. In 1803, he married a Quaker woman named Sarah Worstall.

At the time, he worked in a shop in Milford as a coach painter. With the money he earned, he was able to sufficiently support his family. In 1812 his congregation recorded him as a minister and they began to recognize a special gift in him. By 1813 he began traveling throughout Philadelphia as a Quaker preacher. His expenses for traveling and needs to support a growing family caused some financial problems. Hicks decided to expand his trade to painting household objects - upon request- as well as tavern signs. He was able to make a great deal of money through his painting trade. However, this greatly upset the Quaker community, because it contradicted the plain customs they respected. The Quaker community –at this time in history- was also growing in Pennsylvania at this time because of new settlers arriving. Not everyone in the expanding community had a problem with Hicks; at that point his community was so rapidly growing that many branched off into sects. The various sects were represented by many different Americans and many various ideals on good living. These differences sometimes conflicted with one another, which greatly discouraged Edward Hicks from continuing to preach in the Quaker community. [1].Hicks then decided to become a farmer, which only made financial matters worse for him. He did not have the experience he needed to cultivate the land, or run a farm primarily on his own. By 1816, his wife was expecting a fifth child. A financial solution had to be found soon. A close friend of Hicks - John Comly - convinced the painter's Long Island relative to talk to Hicks about painting again. It was then that Edward started painting with an easel, and on canvas.

He had all of the experience he needed in this field, unlike farming. This friendly suggestion saved Edward Hicks from financial disaster. It also preserved his livelihood not as a Quaker Minister, but as a Quaker artist. [2]Many Quaker beliefs prohibited the idea of living a lavish life or having excessive amounts of objects or materials. Hicks was unable to maintain his work as a preacher and painter at the same time. He completely transitioned into a life of painting, and he used his canvases as a way to convey his personal beliefs. Although Edward Hicks enjoyed preaching and spreading the words of the Quaker faith, and the meanings they had for him to others, he enjoyed painting much better. He was unconfined by rules of his congregation, and able to freely express what religion could not; the human conception of faith. [3] Every individual's beliefs vary, but in the Quaker community open-mindedness was not easily accepted. For Hicks, these very personal beliefs be accepted and preserved on canvas. Viewers were able to perceive his work and create their own interpretations.

Although it is not considered a religious image, Hicks' many creations of his Peaceable Kingdoms offer many Quaker qualities. Much of Hick's work and Quaker faith was strangely inspired by the Bible. For example, this painting includes many animals. These animals signify the Noah's Ark Passage in the Bible, which the Quakers understood. In the case of Peaceable Kingdom, he produced 61 re-creations of it. Hicks used his paintings as a way to define his central interest, which was the quest for a redeemed soul. This theme was also from one of his theological beliefs. [4]
Hicks used traditional symbols in his work. However, they did not adequately reflect his personal Quaker concept of salvation. Hicks therefore altered his imagery. Still today, his personal concept of salvation remains insufficiently understood by many. Perhaps he had intended that viewers would find their own answers with the help and inspiration offered by his paintings. Hicks' work was also greatly influenced by a specific Quaker belief referred to as the Inner Light.

George Fox was the Quaker chief, along with other formulators who established and preached the Inner Light doctrine. Fox explained that along with scriptural knowledge, many individuals achieve salvation by yielding one's self-will to the divine power of Christ and the "Christ within". This "Christ in You" concept was derived from the Bible's Colossians 1:27. It was a strong characteristic of Edward Hicks' work. Hicks enjoyed using references of humans and animals to depict the Inner Light's idea of breaking physical barriers (of difference between two individuals) to working and living together in peace. In many of his paintings he also displays this concept with people such as the Native Americans and the settlers of Pennsylvania. Hicks was also very much against British power in America, and hoped that Penn could help ensure reform. A strong supporter of the Republican Party, Hicks appreciated William Penn because of what he stood for with regard to America's freedom and the Quaker community. Penn was a sort of role model for Hicks with regard to America's general well-being. Much like Penn, Hicks also opposed Britain's hierarchy. [4] Hicks most admired Penn for establishing the treaty of Pennsylvania with the Native Americans, because it was a state that strongly fostered the Quaker community. [5]

Edward Hicks' first major exhibition took place in 1960 at Williamsburg, Virginia. Although it was devoted to the artist's life work, it got mixed reviews due to the fact that Hicks had a habit of repeating various arrangements over and over again. Hicks' earliest and most impactful presentation of work was in 1826. Kingdoms of the Branch, was at that time in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.[3] Hicks used Penn and the Native Americans to paraphrase Isaiah's prophecy, in full. Edward had created his own art movement in a sense. Inspired by various passages in the Bible, his Quaker background, and personal faith, all of Hicks' work is based on his feelings about the world around him. When he painted, the work focused completely on religious subject matter while using current events to portray them. The paintings also create a sense of religious nature and value, and were not created for fame or fortune. Hicks also created an established symbol system to convey meaning through his art. [6] He used predators (such as lions) and prey (such as lambs) in his paintings next to each other to show a theme of peace. Peaceable Kingdoms of the Branch (1826-30), is now located in Reynolda House, Museum of American Art, Winston-Salem, NC. It is a great example of Hicks' legacy. [7] Hicks also enjoyed using simpler color schemes as another way to convey simplicity, but also to not distract viewers from true content. He also utilized many of the same captions, figure relationships and foreground background views.

As stated above, many of Hicks' work include similarities that vary from painting to painting. For example, his 1834 version of "Peaceable Kingdom" and 1845 version of "The Residence of David Twining", the picture plane of both offer many comparisons (please see first two paintings displayed below). First, the right area of both paintings appears to be the most congested area. Within this are of both, the larger objects are not entirely the closest forms within the picture plane. Instead, the size of the object seems to reflect the importance of it. The ox and the lion are the largest objects in "Peaceable Kingdom", and the house is the largest object in "The Residence of David Twining". Both paintings show humans and animals interacting together, which is very important. There is an even great sense of community offered by both because the people are portrayed as trying to accomplish something. In the case of "Peaceable Kingdom", there are settlers in the background, signing a treaty with the Native Americans. In all of Hicks' work, the subject matter is clear in the sense that a viewer must take more than glance at each painting in order to understand it. His work portrays calmness and peace, taking place rather than an abrupt action. The titles help to explain the subject matter, but also help to differentiate all of his works, because some are similar to one another. However, none of his paintings are completely identical. Although Hicks could have presented his subject matter differently, the fact that he presented the in his way makes him more of an individual artist. Compositionally, there are certain structures and patterns Hicks follows (as mentions earlier) within all of his work. He enjoys showing depth through objects and objects size before turning to light and shadows. The foreground, middle ground and background are all defined by objects, animals, landscape, humans, and skylines. One quality that attracts viewers to Hicks' work is his use of repetition amongst his paintings. Within his paintings, his unique style capturing "peace" is also interesting. Many of the shapes and forms in his work appear to be organic, flowing and soft. This is also a way for the artist to convey tranquility and peace. Although the space may appear shallow on the picture plane of these paintings, the content and message are much deeper. Within his work, a viewer must pay close attention to the number of people or objects within a painting because they vary from painting to painting. Also, one must pay close attention to the gestures of individuals and animals in paintings, in order to derive meaning. Hicks' almost always paints outdoor scenes, in which the light source is the sun or sky. Again, Hicks uses small detail variations as a way to force a viewers to pay attention to content because they are deliberate and purposeful. The color schemes of his work are not complicated. The color schemes he choices to work with are very plane, and within a painting such "Peaceable Kingdom", many of the colors have the same warmth or brown tone. This is another way that Hicks' tries to convey "uniformity" or peace. Most of these paintings are asymmetrically balanced. This is used as a way to activate the painting's space and proportion. It is also being used as a way to reflect actions taking place between groups of people and animals within the work.

Gallery of major works


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