born April 4, 1780, Attleboro, Pa., U.S.
died Aug. 23, 1849, Newtown, Pa.
American primitive, or folk, painter known for his naivedepictions of
the farms and landscape of Pennsylvania and New York, and especially
for his many versions (about 25 extant, perhaps 100 painted) of “The
Peaceable Kingdom.” The latter work depicts Hicks's belief, as a
Quaker, that Pennsylvania was the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy
(11:6–9) ofjustice and gentleness between all men and beasts. William
Penn and other Quakers appear on the left of the picture, making their
treaty with the Indians, while Isaiah's beasts are gathered on the
right with little children playing among them. The landscape, figures,
and animals make a charmingly awkward pageant of the Quakers' ideas.
Hicks came to art late. A painter of coaches and signs in early life,
for many years he devoted all his serious energies to his avocation of
preaching. It was as a preacher that he was celebrated among his
contemporaries, and the 3,000 mourners at his funeral grieved at the
loss of a favourite minister. He began to make easel paintings when he
was in middle age, and with some reluctance. Although he feared that
art was contrary to religion, he testified that it could sometimes
bring meaning to life. Unable to make a painting without an apparent
moral, he often framed a picture with edifying verse of his own
composition, like that surrounding his view of Niagara Falls.