|This is a painting that could be on permanent display in a classroom or library gallery where students could reflect on the image over a period of time and really begin to see all the details that enrich the meanings.
b. 4-4-1780; Bucks Co., PA
Edward Hicks was not well known in his lifetime. He was not trained as an artist- he made his living farming and painting coaches and signs. And though he was raised as a Quaker, and was also a Quaker minister, he was always getting into fights! Hicks painted over seventy versions of the Peaceable Kingdom, perhaps he was working out his feelings by painting the world he wanted. Today the different versions of A Peaceable Kingdom are reproduced in books, calendars and as posters because they are beautiful paintings.
By comparing versions of A Peaceable Kingdom we are able to tell the story of how Hicks was feeling at that time. Some of the Peaceable Kingdom paintings look sadder, or madder, than the 1824 Peaceable Kingdom, but they all tell two stories- one story is in the background and one in the foreground.
In the background Hicks shows William Penn (Pennsylvania means “Penn's Woods”) signing a treaty with the Delaware Indians in 1682; in the foreground Hicks has painted wild and domestic animals, seemingly natural enemies, laying down together in peace.
Can you name the animals? Since Hicks was a farmer in New England, how do you think he knew what a lion looked like?
William Penn, as a Quaker, believed that all people were equal in the eyes of God and he insisted on paying the Indians for their land. You can see Penn standing with his arms out in a peaceful gesture as children are presenting what looks like bolts of cloth to the Indians. Now look at the arms of the child in the foreground- the gesture is repeated as if to say this is also a gift for the future.
The Peaceable Kingdom painting above is from 1824 when Hicks was 44 years old. Look at the poem he included as a border. The poem refers to a prophesy by Isaiah from the Bible.
The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them. Isaiah 11:6
Can you see how Hicks brought his skills as a sign painter into painting the poem? What words rhyme? What words look like the rhyme but don't sound the same?
How do you feel about a little child leading the way for peace? What are some things you might do to be a peace maker? Remember Hicks painted over seventy versions a Peaceable Kingdom, while making peace isn't easy, it is worthwhile.