If your local museum has an Edward Hicks, you are most fortunate. He is poorly understood and grossly under appreciated, but that could change if you happen upon a copy of Carolyn J. Weekley’s richly illustrated and researched The Kingdoms of Edward Hicks. I found my copy at Ollie’s Bargain Outlet in Cranberry for only $7.41 total.
Hicks was not a simple man nor was his religion simple. He was not a primitive painter of child-like visions. For the earlier generations for whom the paintings were made, they were infused with theological meaning and a Quaker aesthetic of which they wholly approved. He was a minister at the center of the schism between the visiting English Quakers identified as Orthodox and those Quakers led by Elias Hicks, a cousin of Edward, known as the Hicksite. As the schism continued and became more entrenched, the treatment that Edward Hicks gave his Peaceful Kingdom paintings changed to a darker interpretation of Isaiah’s prophecy.
Weekley has done the scholarship, illustrations, and thoughtful interpretation to bring excitement back to viewing the work of Edward Hicks. Your job, if you don’t want to pay full price, is to haunt the bargain tables until you find a copy. The motto to remember with religious paintings is, whether Edward Hicks’ Peaceful Kingdoms or Renaissance Italian paintings, Everything is in its place and for a reason.
When Edward Hicks died August 23 in 1849, more than three thousand people attended the funeral and the service that followed. A biblical quote was used to identify him as a prince and great man. I heartily agree. Charles Marlin