"An Act of Faith": Edward Hicks' "Peaceable Kingdom"

The 19th-century Quaker artist Edward Hicks painted some of American folk art’s most cherished works.

In this film, Christie's Specialist Sallie Glover explains how, in a series of works featuring animals and children, he reconciled creative impulses with religious beliefs.

Towards the end of his life, the self-taught artist Edward Hicks described himself as ‘a poor old worthless insignificant painter’. Little did he know that a century and a half later he would become one of the most highly covetable folk artists in America, with his canvases being sold for more than $1 million at auction.

The story of Edward Hicks (1780-1849) is a fascinating one. A coach painter turned Quaker preacher in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, he reconciled his religious beliefs with his artistic ambitions by only painting scenes that reflected his spiritual outlook. As specialist Sallie Glover explains, ‘As a Quaker he valued simplicity. Creativity was often frowned upon.’

To this end, he began a series of paintings that came to be known as his Peaceable Kingdoms. The subject matter is taken from Isaiah 11: 6-9, in which animals are described as living in a serene and orderly manner. Glover believes Hicks was drawn to the verse because ‘it highlighted the Quaker beliefs of peace and harmony’.

In total, Hicks made 62 known versions of Peaceable Kingdom, a number of which are now held in museums today, including The Brooklyn Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C

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