Edward Hicks

Edward Hicks (1780-1849) was a folk and naive (primitive) artist and devout Quaker (member of the Religious Society of Friends).

Life and Work

Probably his best-known works are the various versions of the painting Peaceable Kingdom. These paintings depict the verses from Isaiah, chapter 11, that begin "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf, and the young lion, and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. . . ." Many of these paintings also depict, in the background, the legendary treaty between William Penn and the Lenape at the foundation of Pennsylvania.

Hicks's mother died when he was an infant, and the family who raised him were Quakers. Hicks embraced the religion himself and became a traveling minister (Quakers do not have paid clergy, but they do recognize particular people as gifted in ministry—people like Edward Hicks and his cousin Elias Hicks).

Hicks began his career as an apprentice to a coach-builder. He learned to paint decorations on the coaches. Later he started his own business, decorating furniture and other objects.

Hicks's Quaker faith sometimes conflicted with his career as an artist. In fact he was criticized for engaging in "worldly activity." For a time, he gave up painting. Then he found a way of combining his faith and his work by producing paintings that depicted various aspects of Quaker belief. The Peaceable Kingdom, for example, reflects the Friends' Peace Testimony. He painted at least 60 versions of this subject.

Hicks's other subjects were historical events that occurred in Pennsylvania, farm life, and Bible stories.

Hicks was a member of Newtown Monthly Meeting (monthly meetings are the local Quaker congregations), and is buried in the graveyard there. His home in Newtown, PA is adjacent to the meeting's property, and is a national historic landmark.