Historical Markers
Edward Hicks [Fine Arts] Historical Marker
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Edward Hicks [Fine Arts]

Philadelphia and its Countryside/Lehigh Valley


Marker Location:
122 Penn St., Newtown

Dedication Date:
September 6, 1997

Behind the Marker

Oil on canvas of mother and children sitting among the animals. Inscriptions: [at lower right center]: Isaiah 11 Chap. 6,7,8; [on the back a label affixed to stretcher with poem composed by artist]
Peaceable Kingdom, by Edward Hicks
Edward Hicks is most famous for The Peaceable Kingdom, which he painted over sixty times. Here he illustrates verses 6-9 of the 11th Book of Isaiah in the Bible, "The wolf shall also lie down with the lamb. . . and a little child shall lead them," by painting the various animals mentioned. Although he adapted his work from British painter Richard Westall, Hicks made the image his own by incorporating American events - most notably William Penn's Treaty with the Indians, as painted by markerBenjamin West - and scenery, such as the Natural Bridge near Lexington, Virginia and the Delaware River, in the background of the painting.

Hicks explained the psychological meaning of his painting by using contemporary medical ideas, which regarded the human body as divided into four humors. The "gloomy and ravenous" wolf represented melancholy, the "lustful and volatile" leopard was sanguine, and the "worldly-wise and indifferent bear" phlegmatic, while the "proud and raging" lion was choleric. These predators were neutralized, respectively, by the lamb, kid, cow, and ox. These elements Hicks held together with child representing the "lamb of God" - Jesus - and an angel.
Oil on canvas painting of Indians and Quakers trading gifts. A long treaty on paper is held by one Quaker while a portly Williams Penn appears to read and gesture to the natives. A ship is just docked off shore.
Penn's Treaty, by Edward Hicks, ca. 1830-1840.

Hicks used The Peaceable Kingdom to spread his Quaker vision of an idealized world at peace. Some of his painted frame borders added to the biblical verses: for instance, "When the great Penn his famous treaty made/With Indian chiefs beneath the Elm tree's shade." Hicks himself, however, became involved in the great dispute within the Quakers in the 1820s. He sided with the Hicksites, led by his cousin Elias Hicks, who favored a return to the more intense spirituality and reliance on the "Inner Light" of the original Quakers as opposed to the "Orthodox" members who stressed reading the Bible and social conformity.
Oil on canvas of William Penn's grave. A lovely old stone home surrounded by a stone fence sits in the background. Horse and carriage sit at the entrance as people mill around the grounds. Under a tree in the foreground, cows, sheep, a shepherd, and a child with her dog rest. The sky is cloudy
The Grave of William Penn, by Edward Hicks, c. 1847.

The background of several "Peaceable Kingdoms" shows the Hicksite Quakers accompanied by William Penn, George Fox (founder of the Quakers), and George Washington (a hero of Hicks' despite his military prowess) ascending into Heaven where Christ's apostles greet them.
The moon hides behind dark night clouds as Washington sits astride a beautiful white horse. One soldier in a tan coat readies himself to mount his brown horse, as others fade into the right background. To the left one can see the river
Washington at the Delaware, by Edward Hicks.

In addition to his Peaceable Kingdoms, Hicks painted The Grave of William Penn and various farm scenes in his primitive style. Many of his paintings were primitivist adaptations of masterpieces such as West's Penn's Treaty with the Indians or John Trumbull's The Declaration of Independence. Unable to support himself through the sale of his paintings, Hicks earned much of his income by painting coaches and signs. Many of the latter, including Washington at the Delaware, are found in the Mercer Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. The Newtown, Pennsylvania, town library still has the sign of Benjamin Franklin reading that once hung over its door.

Forgotten for nearly a hundred years, Hicks' paintings were rediscovered during the folk art revival of the 1930s. Today, many of his works may be found at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Collection in colonial Williamsburg. Since then, other artists have used Hick's paintings for models, in much the same way that he used others' paintings. African-American artist markerHorace Pippin was so deeply moved by The Peaceable Kingdom, that he executed three versions of his own, entitled The Holy Mountain, where a black shepherd and child replace the white child and angel found in Hicks' paintings.

To learn more about the life of Edward Hicks and his other paintings click markerhere.
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