Philadelphia Museum of Art

Philadelphia, PA

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The Kingdoms of Edward Hicks

Left to right: Peaceable Kingdom, 1832-1834, oil on canvas, 17 1/4 x 23 1/4 inches, The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center; George Washington with His Army Crossing the Delaware, 1848, oil on canvas, 36 1/8 x 47 3/8 inches, The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center

Edward Hicks (1780-1849), one of the best known American folk painters, was a lifelong resident of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and a devoted Quaker missionary and preacher. His images of The Peaceable Kingdom, inspired by the Book of Isaiah's prophetic vision of a peaceful world in which "the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid," are among the most beloved in all of American art. For Hicks, painting portraits or other "vain" and "self-indulgent" forms -- though relatively lucrative -- was incompatible with his religious beliefs. To satisfy his creative impulses and his Quaker convictions, Hicks devoted most of his energies to painting inspirational and instructive subjects. His life and art will be explored in The Kingdoms of Edward Hicks, a comprehensive exhibition of unprecedented scale, on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art from October, 10, 1999 to January 2, 2000.

Featuring more than 80 works of art. the exhibition will include paintings and decorated objects, as well as important manuscript materials that illuminate Hicks' deep spirituality, artistic talent, and intense interest in the doctrinal controversies that divided his fellow Quakers in the early years of the 19th century.

A man of strong faith, Edward Hicks lived in two worlds (or "kingdoms"): the religious and the secular. The Kingdoms of Edward Hicks will examine the distinctions between his religiously inspired paintings and the secular works that he produced to earn a living. Featured will be some 25 representations of The Peaceable Kingdom, a subject treated by the artist in more than 100 paintings dating from the early 1820s to 1849. Works of great visual charm, Hicks' evolving explorations linked the parable to William Penn's legendary 1682 treaty with the Lenape or Delaware Indians, and reflected his great concern with growing dissent among the Quakers. The Peaceable Kingdom became the artist's most compelling personal and artistic testament.

The Kingdoms of Edward Hicks has been organized by The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. In Philadelphia, the exhibition is coordinated by Darrel Sewell, The Robert L. McNeil, Jr., Curator of American Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Colonial Williamsburg is home to the world's largest collection of works by Hicks. Prominent in the Philadelphia Museum of Art's distinguished permanent collections of American art are two important works by Edward Hicks that are included in the traveling exhibition: an 1826 painting of the The Peaceable Kingdom, and Noah's Ark (1846), a subject that was wholly unique in Hicks' body of work. A lesson in destruction and redemption, Noah's Ark features remarkably beautiful animals paired in a dignified procession that honors the grave spirit of God's command to save themselves from the approaching flood.

In addition to important examples of The Peaceable Kingdom, The Kingdoms of Edward Hicks will feature rural landscapes and pastoral scenes, including An Indian Summer View of the Farm and Stock of James C. Cornell (1848) and A May Morning View of the Farm and Stock of David Leedon (his last painting, completed in 1849); an advertising signboard painted by Hicks in 1800 to 1805; decorated furniture; and A Portrait of Edward Hicks by his nephew Thomas Hicks (1823-90) in 1838-41. The exhibition will also include revealing artifacts: the artist's palette, his register of paintings, letters in the artist's hand, and two copies of his published memoirs, among other evocative and instructive items.

Support for The Kingdoms of Edward Hicks was provided by The Henry Luce Foundation, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. In Philadelphia, the exhibition is supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts and The William Penn Foundation. A fully-illustrated catalogue accompanying the exhibition is co-published by Colonial Williamsburg and Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York. The publication was supported by a generous grant from Juli and David Grainger of Winnetka, Illinois, and the Grainger Foundation.

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Read more about the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Resource Library.

For further biographical information on the artist cited in this article please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 10/18/10


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