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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Art: Peaceable Kingdom by Edward Hicks

Edward Hicks (1780-1849) painted over sixty different versions of his popular Peaceable Kingdom. As an American painter in folk art, he worked in a style that was uniquely his. At times, a lack of formal training can be a benefit as styles vary from those offered by some of the masters. His unique work and individualized style led to his great art mastery.  His fame as an artist grew by the passion he put within his work.

The Peaceable Kingdom is a rendition of the biblical passage of Isaiah 61: 6-9. As a Quaker, he saw his world through this particular lens and seemed to recreate those concepts on canvas. The passage states, “The Leopard shall lied down with the kid,; and a calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.” It was this concept that led to a peace treaty in Pennsylvania with the Natives that became an ideal model for others. The land was purchased and equitably owned as the Quaker mindset was to view all people as human with rights to their own land.

The picture is one of plush looking figures living in harmony and European and Natives talking together. The children are living with the beasts in pure harmony.  What you find is that the forefront creates an ideal perfection that is applied to the political issues of the time as expressed in the background (i.e. Natives and Europeans).

Peace is a homeostasis where want and need does not force unfair actions on others. The problem with this ideal is that people within the world will always have needs just like the lions and the children. If the lions are hungry, the children cannot feel safe. This is an ideal on earth that should be something we strive for even if it may never be realized.

As you can tell from the painting, it is dreamlike with oddly stuffed and soft animals. The children are in white indicating purity. The sun is setting meaning that night is coming. The natives and the Europeans are both wearing hats and feathers.  One European and one Native have their hands outstretched as though they are explaining something to their colleagues. Are they not the same? 

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