The Peaceable Kingdom
Edward Hicks was a Quaker minister and artist best known for his many versions of the peaceable kingdom described in Isaiah 11. Over time, the artist used the theme of harmony among natural enemies as a reflection of his own anguish overrifts within the Society of Friends, which by 1827 had dividedinto two groups, the conservative Hicksites, named after Hicks’selderly cousin Elias Hicks (1748–1830), and the Orthodox, who advocated formal structure in worship, among other changes.
Hicks’s father was financially ruined during the Revolutionary War because of his suspected Tory leanings, and when he was widowed, he placed his young son in the Quaker Twining family to be raised, an idyllic period that the artist rendered in loving memory paintings toward the end of his life. Hicks lived in a rather dissipated fashion until he was apprenticed to an ornamental and sign painter and found a creative outlet to focus his energies. He embraced the Quaker faith and became one of its most ardent adherents, but he struggled to reconcile the brilliant inner light with the worldly life he valued as an ornamental artist.
The iterations of The Peaceable Kingdom became a means of negotiating between these two psychological poles and a way to cope with the growing schism within his faith. This version is one of the first to expand the panoply of animals with the addition of bears, cattle, and a second lion; to show animals sharing food; and to depict three children. The painting was gifted by Hicks to his daughter, Sarah, upon her marriage, and descended in her family through several generations. It was later acquired by legendary New York art dealer Sidney Janis, who pondered the idea of self-taught art in his seminal publication They Taught Themselves: American Primitive Painters of the 20th Century (1942). Janis gifted the painting to his own son, Carroll, who recently donated the painting to the American Folk Art Museum.
Stacy C. Hollander, “The Peaceable Kingdom,” exhibition label for Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum. Stacy C. Hollander and Valérie Rousseau, curators. New York: American Folk Art Museum, 2014.