I recently saw a group of Edward Hicks works that descended directly through his family. I was asked to do a fair market value appraisal on them and it was an exciting chance to learn more about Hicks and his artwork. He was a nineteenth century Pennsylvania artist best known for his series of paintings titled "Peaceable Kingdom." He painted over 60 versions of this scene, many of which are now in museum collections throughout the United States including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and more.
Hicks painted in a distinct style that was influenced by his early sign-painting training. Though he would become a prolific artist, his religious faith was of the greatest importance in his life. He was raised by a Quaker family and as he grew older incorporated Quaker values into his personal and professional life, ultimately becoming a Quaker preacher.
Since function was valued over mere decoration in Quaker society, Hicks’ creative outlet posed a problem. In an effort to rectify this he painted mostly religious scenes that related to Quaker tenets of peacefulness and brotherhood. Consequently, he began painting the Peaceable Kingdom paintings. The scenes are based on chapter 11 of Isaiah and focused on themes of peacefulness so valued in his faith.
Though his style evolved over time, he painted for nearly 40 years, his artwork is unique and instantly recognizable. Added to this, the Peaceable Kingdom paintings have most if not all of the following visual elements: a variety of animals, predator and prey alike, resting in a verdant landscape; young children intermingled with the animals; a quote from Isaiah; and preeminent Quakers such as William Penn, who sought his own Peaceable Kingdom, meeting with a group of American Indians. Each version though, has its own small differences and one even features Natural Bridge in Virginia. Hicks’ concentrated focus on these particular visual themes allowed his work to progress over the years and consequently works from the last decade of his life are considered to be the best.
According to Christie's, Hicks is "one of the most highly covetable folk artists in America, with his canvases being sold for more than $1 million at auction." One such painting (pictured below) from his middle period recently sold at Christie's for over 1.5 million dollars.
Click the images to look through the selection of “Peaceable Kingdom” images below