Edward Hicks, Quaker

Quaker Bucks County

Signs of the Times

Michener Sampler

Art in Town

Art On Campus

Art in the Workplace

Art In Trenton

To the North

Other Galleries

Art by the River

Corrections or additions?

This article by Phyllis Maguire was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on

October 27, 1999. All rights reserved.

Edward Hicks’s Psychic Harmony

It is entirely fitting that an exhibit devoted to

Edward Hicks, the nation’s premier primitive visionary artist, should

be on display at the Mercer Museum in Doylestown, Bucks County, at

the same time that the urbane Philadelphia Museum of Art hosts a major

retropective exhbition of Hicks works.

That’s because it never occurred to the rustic Hicks to migrate to

a cultural capital — to Philadelphia, which decades after the

American Revolution, he still considered a royalist bastion —

to pursue "Art." Instead he spent his entire life in Bucks

County, weaving himself deeply into the community’s commercial and

religious life. It is thus apt to consider him in a setting crammed

with wagon wheels and hay rakes, looms and winnowers, stage coaches

and cradles. Founded in 1916 by industrialist, historian, and collector

Henry Mercer, the museum celebrates the agrarian crafts and industry

that were the backdrop to Hicks’s own life.

At the Philadelphia Museum of Art, "The Kingdoms of Edward Hicks,"

is a retrospective traveling exhibition that originated at the Abby

Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center in Colonial Williamsburg, and

features more than 80 works, including 25 versions of "The Peaceable

Kingdom," as well as the magnificent "Noah’s Ark" and

Hicks’s last landscape, "A May Morning View of the Farm and Stock

of David Leedom."

At the Mercer Museum, "Edwards Hicks Country" explores the

social and historic context of Hicks’s art. Designed to spotlight

the regional significance of the artist and the region being feted

in Philadelphia, the Mercer exhibition consists of three different

displays: "Quaker Bucks County" suggests Hicks’s deep engagement

in 19th-century Quakerism; "Signs of the Times: The Trade Sign

Tradition" explores his chosen career as a sign painter; and "Penn’s

Treaty in Art and Artifact" shows Hicks’s contributions to a line

of historic and religious iconography. A companion exhibit entitled

"An Edward Hicks Sampler" at the James A. Michener Art Museum

across the street displays more of the art that grew out of Hicks’s

vision of divine transcendence and his own psychological and religious

strife.

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Edward Hicks, Quaker

Edward Hicks was born in 1780 is what is now Langhorne,

Bucks County, the scion of well-to-do Anglicans. His grandfather,

who was chief justice of Bucks County, was a loyalist during the Revolution,

and both he and Hicks’s father had to go into hiding.

Hicks’s mother died when he was 18 months old, leaving him to be raised

on a nearby farm by Quaker family friends, David and Elizabeth Twining.

Just a few years before he died at age 70, Hicks painted four versions

of "The Residence of David Twining"; they each show a five-year

old Edward at the knee of the Bible-reading Elizabeth, the two of

them set in a farmscape scene of peace and industry.

When he was 13, Hicks began a seven-year coachmaking apprenticeship,

an indoctrination as well into "intemperance, angry passions,

and devilishness," he noted more than 40 years later in his "Memoirs."

That record of youthful folly ended in his early 20s, when he became

a member of the Society of Friends.

Quakers had prospered in Pennsylvania during the first century of

William Penn’s Holy Experiment. But divisiveness had wracked the pacifist

sect, and there was worse to come. They had abdicated political power

in the mid-1750s rather than approve funds to wage the Seven Years’

War. Nominally neutral during the Revolution, Quakers saw many of

their own children defect from the Society to fight for independence,

or to marry into other religions in an increasingly diverse Pennsylvania.

After the war, Quaker isolation became more entrenched, and Friends

entered the 19th century clinging to their plain clothing, their plain

speech of thy’s and thee’s, and their ban on intermarriage and extravagance.

Edward married the daughter of a Quaker tanner in Newtown, which was

then the county seat, and set himself up as a coach painter. By the

time he was 30, he was well known as a traveling and impassioned Quaker

minister, a role that brought him much more renown during his lifetime

than painting.

In the 1820s, the Society of Friends was split by a schism that would

last more than 100 years. Some Quakers had grown tired of being renegades

among mainstream Protestantism and wanted to practice a more recognizable

form of Christianity, complete with hired ministers, sermons, and

scriptural readings. These Friends, more numerous in the cities, became

known as Orthodox Quakers.

But rural Quakers still relied on the Inner Light and the ministry

of all believers, meeting in silence punctuated by expressions of

religious revelation. This group, who continued the mysticism that

had defined Quakerism since its beginnings in the 1650s, were known

as the Hicksites after their leader, the artist’s cousin Elias Hicks.

The theological split (with Edward siding with his cousin) remained

in the forefront of Hicks’s religious life, and many of his travels

as a minister — as far west as Ohio, north through New York, and

south to Baltimore — were motivated by his need to connect with

the Hicksite community. The scores of "Peaceable Kingdom"

paintings he painted over three decades tracked not only his faith

in Christian redemption and in Penn’s vision of human society, but

his own internal views of the Society’s turmoil and a longing for

reconciliation.

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Quaker Bucks County

The "Quaker Bucks County" exhibit at the Mercer shows Quaker

marriage certificates and photographs of the meetinghouses that dot

Bucks County, many of them sites where Edward preached. He himself

was instrumental in founding the Newtown Meeting which still stands

and where he rose as its first speaker in 1817. Hicks’s own home,

a stone federal at 122 Penn Street in Newtown, adjoined the meetinghouse

property, and Hicks earned $20 a year for lighting the meeting’s woodstove

fires. With his family, he lies in the burial ground there, the spreading

sycamore next to his grave nearly toppling the gravestone of his infant

granddaughter into his own.

Hicks had another, more personal struggle within the Society of Friends:

finding worth as an artist. For much of his prolific life, he wrestled

with his need to paint, sniped at by some Quakers who held that ornamental

painting was as morally corrosive — and as useless — as fiction,

music, and dance.

Hicks began his career painting coaches, but quickly discovered his

talent for (and handsome payment from) painting signs for businesses,

streets, and taverns. Sign painting satisfied his ego and his interest,

and brought badly needed revenues to a traveling minister with a growing

family who was paid nothing for preaching.

"Being a sign painter was certainly a useful occupation,"

points out Cory M. Amsler, the Mercer Museum curator. "But some

of his signs were quite elaborately embellished, and when he got that

far out, he’d be criticized by elders for straying from Quaker beliefs

in plainness and simplicity."

The war between Hicks’s talent and his spiritual beliefs led him to

briefly abandon painting and take up farming instead. But painting,

he later wrote, was "the only business I understood," and

fortunately for American art, he failed as a farmer. Wealthy family

members and well-wishers paid off his debts, in the hopes perhaps

of making him less tempted by his suspect craft. But he never forsook

painting again, and when he finally embraced easel painting, he tailored

his subjects — scriptural passages, heroic American figures, pacifist

transformation, and farmscapes — to suit the rigors of his own

mysticism.

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Signs of the Times

The signs in "Signs of the Times: The Trade Sign Tradition"

prove that Hicks had talented company in his chosen profession. Long

before there were billboards and Java animation, there was oil paint

on wood, and American trade signs continued medieval motifs of lions

and flowering trees, as well as text set off in banners. Although

few of Hicks’s decorative pieces have survived, there is one sign

among several here displayed that is attributed to him.

It is a portrait of the Quaker patriot and financier Robert Morris,

one that hung from a tavern in Morrisville, Pa. The stalwart, imposing

portrait sits above the words, "Thy word is thy bond" —

a marriage of image and text that Hicks would also use in easel painting.

It is a good illustration of the observation made by Eleanore Price

Mather in her "Edward Hicks: A Peaceable Season": "Tavern

signs are the missing link between Hicks the coachmaker and Hicks

the artist. They required him to draw figures and, in a limited way,

to handle composition."

One of Hicks’s first easel subjects was the Niagara Falls, a celebration

of American scenery and wildlife. Soon he turned to painting William

Penn, seeing in the Quaker statesman the triumph of religious freedom

and the founding of the ideal human society. He did at least a dozen

versions of "Penn’s Treaty," one of which is included in the

Mercer "Penn’s Treaty in Art and Artifact" exhibit. The agreement

Penn supposedly brokered with Native Americans over bolts of cloth

was of course part of American lore, but Hicks worked from other artists’

renderings, two of which are exhibited here: John Hall’s 1775 engraving

of the same scene, and Benjamin West’s imposing and dramatic treatment.

By contrast, Hicks placed the viewer much closer to an intimate group

of plainly clad Quakers and Indians, filling the top half of his painting

with trees, water, and sky.

While Hicks would include the Penn’s Treaty tableau in many "Peaceable

Kingdoms," he returned to the subject of Penn in the last decade

of his life, painting at least six versions of "The Grave of William

Penn," one of which is included here.

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Michener Sampler

Across the street at the Michener Museum, "An Edward Hicks Sampler"

includes several more of his works. There is his celebration of America

in his portrait of the "Old Democrat" Andrew Jackson and of

George Washington astride his horse before the crossing to Trenton.

There is his "Landing of Columbus" and a beautiful landscape

of a tree silhouetted against a river. And then there is a "Peaceable

Kingdom" from 1837, one of perhaps more than 100 studies he made

of the prophetic verses from the Book of Isaiah, proclaiming a messianic

realm where "the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the

leopard shall lie down with the kid."

While experts say "The Peaceable Kingdom" series shows the

progression of Hicks’s feelings about Quaker strife, it is clear from

comments he made during his life that each of the painted animals

also symbolized a different emotional trait or propensity. Thus his

painted vision of peaceful coexistence represented psychic harmony

as well, a balance that Hicks — at least according to the majestically

serene paintings he created during the last decade of his life —

was able to achieve.

But he didn’t experience fame. When he died in 1849 at 69, more than

3,000 attended his funeral in Newtown, but no mention of his art was

made in the obituary. Giving his paintings away to friends or using

them to pay off debts, Hicks would probably have been flabbergasted,

surmised Mercer curator Amsley, to learn that a "Peaceable Kingdom"

in 1998 fetched $4.7 million. Flabbergasted, and — though it might

tempt him toward the sin of pride, one frowned upon by his elders

— secretly very pleased.

Edwards Hicks Country, Mercer Museum, Pine and Ashland

streets, Doylestown, 215-345-0210. Continues to June 30. "Penn’s

Treaty with the Indians" on view to January 7. Monday to Saturday,

10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Adults, $5.

An Edward Hicks Sampler, James A. Michener Art Museum,

138 South Pine Street, Doylestown, 215-340-9800. Tuesday to Friday,

10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Wednesday to 9 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10

a.m. to 5 p.m. $5; students $1.50. Combined admission to the Mercer

and the Michener, $8. Website: www.michenerartmuseum.org.

The Kingdoms of Edward Hicks, Philadelphia Museum of Art,

Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 26 Street, Philadelphia, 215-763-8100.

Show runs to January 2. Museum hours are Tuesday to Sunday, 10 a.m.

to 5 p.m.; Wednesday until 8:45 p.m. $8; seniors and children, $5.

Timed reservations required on Sundays. Call 215-235-7349 to reserve

tickets. Web: www.philamuseum.org.

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Art in Town

Arts Council of Princeton, 102 Witherspoon Street, 609-924-8777.

In the WPA Gallery, "Ben Shahn: An Artist’s Life," a group

show of works by family members Bernarda, Abby, and Ben Shahn, with

guest Bernarda Bryson Shahn. To Friday, October 29.

Chapin School, 4101 Princeton Pike, 609-921-7206. "Children’s

Illustrators," a show featuring several national children’s reading

events, original illustrations, and prints by seven children’s book

illustrators. Artists represented are Dyanne Di Salvo Ryan, John Shoenherr,

Thomas Sperling, Karel Hayes, Ponder Goembel, Charles Santore, and

Michael Dooling. To November 11.

Anne Reid Art Gallery, Princeton Day School, The Great

Road, 609-924-6700. Lore Lindenfeld’s, "A Journey in Fiber Art:

Design at Black Mountain College and Beyond." A small retrospective

that spans four phases of the fiber artist’s career: from design and

color studies for courses taught by Josef and Anni Albers at Black

Mountain College to Lindenfeld’s work in the fashion industry. To

November 19.

Princeton Jewish Center, 435 Nassau Street, 609-921-0100.

An exhibition of watercolor and drawings of ancient towns of Italy

and Provence by Rhoda Kassof-Issac. The show is a fundraiser for the

Moshe Budmor cantata that premieres in January to celebrate the 50th

anniversary of the center.

Small World Coffee, 14 Witherspoon Street, 609-924-4377.

Jon Roemer, "Photographs on the Periphery of Manhattan." To

November 1.

The Williams Gallery, 8 Chambers Street, 609-921-1142.

Thomas George, recent oils and watercolors. Show runs to November

20. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Website

at http://www.wmgallery.com.

"From the beginning, mountain landscape, the sea and the sky have

been the primary sources for my abstract paintings," says the

George. "The color and structure in these works come out of studies

done from nature in places as diverse as Norway, China, and the United

States. The canvases in this exhibition are a further step along a

road fueled by a preoccupation with the natural landscape which for

me lengthens and grows with the years."

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Art On Campus

Art Museum, Princeton University, 609-258-3788. "Edward

Lear’s Greece," an exhibition of watercolors, sketchings, and

letters from the Gennadius Library of the American School of Classical

Studies in Athens, Greece. Also "The Trappings of Gentility: 19th-Century

British Art at Princeton." Both shows to January 2. The museum

is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday 1 to 5

p.m. Free tours of the collection are every Saturday at 2 p.m.

College of New Jersey, Art Gallery, Holman Hall, 609-771-2198.

"Paperwork: Pulp as Medium," featuring works by Anita Bernarde,

Jane Eccles, Margaret K. Johnson, Betsy Miraglia, Joan Needham, and

Marie Sturken. To November 3. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday,

noon to 3 p.m.; Thursday 7 to 9 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 3 p.m.

Gallery at Mercer County College, Communications Center,

West Windsor, 609-586-4800. Frank Rivera and Joan Needham, an exhibition

of recent work by two members of the MCCC faculty. Rivera’s narrative

paintings are surreal renderings of dreams and cryptic imagery. Needham

is a paper maker and sculptor who uses scrap metal for her abstract

constructions. To November 5. Gallery hours are Monday to Thursday,

11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and Wednesday evenings from 6 to 8 p.m.

The Peddie School, Mariboe Gallery, 609-490-7550. Faculty

show featuring Tim Trelease, Deirdre McGrail, Catherine Robohm Watkins,

and Ken Weathersby. To December 3. Weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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Art in the Workplace

Capital Health System, Mercer Campus, 446 Bellevue Avenue,

Trenton, 609-394-4095. Physicians’ exhibition features works by CHS

physicians Anthony Chiurco, Joseph Eberhart, Leon Fraser, Jay Goodkind,

Robert Gould, Alfred Monkowski, Horace Shaffer, Iradj Sharim, Richard

Siderits, Joseph Wood, and Lee Yazujian. To November 12.

Educational Testing Service, Carter and Rosedale roads,

609-921-9000. In the Conant Gallery Lounge B: Gary Peterson and Roger

LaPelle, oil paintings, to November 19. In the Brodsky Gallery of

the Chauncey Conference Center, charcoal drawings by Alexandra Sax,

to November 29. Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Johnson & Johnson World Headquarters Gallery, New Brunswick,

732-524-3698. "Work from the Art Centre of New Jersey," a

group show of oils, watercolors, pastels and acrylics, to November

30. In the New Jersey Artist Series, "Portraits" by Nicole

Maynard-Sahar, an exhibition of expressionistic portraiture, to November

4. Free by appointment.

Stark & Stark, 993 Lenox Drive, Building 2, Lawrenceville,

609-896-9060. "Departures," an exhibition by the Art Group,

featuring Princeton area artists Liz Adams, Nadine Berkowsky, Eva

Kaplan, Edith Kogan, Judith Koppel, Stephanie Mandelbaum, Helen Post,

and Gloria Wiernik. To November 12. Exhibit is open Monday to Friday,

9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Summit Bancorp Gallery, 301 Carnegie Center, 609-987-3200.

"The American Indian Artists’ Exhibition," a group show that

continues to November 29.

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Art In Trenton

Artworks, 19 Everett Alley, Trenton, 609-394-9436. "Fall

Gala Exhibition," the annual exhibition of work by area artists

and supporters for its gala auction set for November 6. Monday through

Thursday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sunday 1 to 4 p.m.

Extension Gallery, 60 Ward Avenue, Mercerville, 609-890-7777.

Recent work by Helena Lukasova. A native of the Czech Republic, she

will show bronze and iron sculpture combined with nontraditional materials.

To November 4. Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Grounds for Sculpture, 18 Fairgrounds Road, Hamilton, 609-586-0616.

Fall-Winter Exhibition. In the Museum and Domestic Arts Building,

"Beverly Pepper," one-artist show. On the mezzanine, a thematic

photography show, "Focus on Sculpture." Shows continue to

April 16, 2000. Gallery hours are Friday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to

4 p.m.

Urban Word Cafe, 449 South Broad Street, Trenton, 609-989-7777.

Alan Taback’s "Dance Rhythms," a series of paintings based

on music and dance.

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To the North

Museum of the American Hungarian Foundation, 300 Somerset

Street, New Brunswick, 732-846-5777. "The Hungarian Spark in America,"

an exhibit highlighting Hungarian contributions to the arts, sciences,

humanities, commerce, religious and civic life in America. To January

31. Museum hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sunday,

1 to 4 p.m. $3 donation. Museum hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 11

a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. $3 donation.

Quietude Garden Gallery, 24 Fern Road, East Brunswick,

732-257-4340. Contemporary sculpture by 110 artists in natural outdoor

installations on view through October. Hours are Friday to Sunday,

noon to 5 p.m., and by appointment.

Zimmerli Art Museum, George and Hamilton streets, New

Brunswick, 732-932-7237. "A Sense of Wonder: African Art from

the Faletti Family Collection." Show features 80 works, dating

from the 15th to early 20th century, presenting an overview of the

variety of style and sensibility in African art. To November 24. Museum

hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday and

Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.

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Other Galleries

The Artful Deposit, 201 Farnsworth Avenue, Bordentown,

609-298-6970. "Thomas Kelly: Recent Works," an exhibition

by the painter whose quirky scenes capture some of the enigma of life

as we know it. To October 31. Gallery is open Thursday to Saturday,

4 to 7 p.m.

The Artful Deposit, 46 South Main Street, Allentown, 609-259-3234.

"Cats," a group exhibition with works by artists including

Bill Giacalone, Hanneke DeNeve, Elizabeth Lombardi. Gallery is open

Tuesday through Sunday (call for hours) and by appointment. To November

15.

Firehouse Gallery, 8 Walnut Street, Bordentown, 609-298-3742.

The gallery celebrates its fourth year and a new exhibition season

featuring 12 gallery co-op members presenting shows that change monthly.

Working with owner Eric Gibbons are curators and artists Beverly Fredericks

and Lana Bernard-Toniolio.

Other co-op members are Maura Carey, Sarah Bernotas, Richard Gerster,

Robert Sinkus, Mike Pacitti, Michael Bergman, Jane Lawrence, Charlotte

Jacks, Dorothy Amsden, Carmen Johnson, John Wilson, and Bob Gherardi.

Gallery hours are Wednesday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Thursday to Saturday,

11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Stony Brook Millstone Watershed, 31 Titus Mill Road, Pennington,

609-737-7592. "Environmental Studies, Computer Collages and Wooden

Ware" by J. Chester Farnsworth, a satirical show of mixed-media

work, To October 30.

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Art by the River

ABC Gallery, Lambertville Public Library, 6 Lilly Street,

609-397-0275. "Molecular Art II: Acrylics on Canvas by Max Epstein."

To November 13. Gallery hours are Monday to Thursday, 1 to 9 p.m.;

Friday 1 to 5 p.m.; and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Artists’ Gallery, 32 Coryell Street, Lambertville, 609-397-4588.

"Remains of the Old Ways: Landscapes of Rural Europe and America"

by Sandra Davis and recent images of France by Gordon Haas. To October

31. Gallery hours are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Bell’s Union Street Restaurant, 183 North Union, Lambertville,

609-397-2226. "Painterly Impressions," an exhibition of watercolors

by the Chinese-American artist inspired by recent visits to Venice,

Alaska, and the Jersey shore. To December 3.

Coryell Gallery, 8 Coryell Street, Lambertville, 609-397-0804.

Annual Fall Exhibition features paintings by Albert L. Bross Jr.,

watercolors by Harriet Ermentrout, and pastels by Mike Filipiak. To

November 14. Gallery hours are Wednesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Riverrun Gallery, 287 South Main Street, Lambertville,

609-397-3349. Stephen Hall’s "Meanings and Metaphors," and

Susan Zoon’s "Contents Under Pressure." Both shows run to

October 31. Gallery is open daily, 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Tuesday.


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