Penn's Treaty with the Indians
Edward Hicks, American, 1780 - 1849
Trained as a sign painter and later “called” to preaching, Pennsylvania-born Edward Hicks began creating landscape, history, and religious art for his family and friends in about 1816. His repeated theme of the “peaceable kingdom,” which he painted in more than a hundred variants, expressed his Quaker belief in mankind’s ability to live together harmoniously. Often he rendered his peaceable gatherings of animals and children in a landscape with a distant vignette of William Penn offering a treaty to the Indians. In a few cases Hicks focused entirely on Penn and his party under the famous “Treaty Elm,” as seen here. For these works Hicks followed the composition of an engraving based on Benjamin West’s famous 1772 depiction of the event. These treaty scenes, sometimes accompanied by the artist’s inscription proclaiming Penn’s legendary meeting as “The foundation of Religious and Civil Liberty, in the U.S. of America,” reiterate the message of tolerance borne by all the peaceable kingdom paintings. The original veneered frame still bears its gilt-lettered title, testifying to Hicks’s professional skill as a sign painter.