“Noah’s Ark” by Edward Hicks
“Noah’s Ark” by Edward Hicks depicts the vessel in the Genesis flood narrative through which God spares Noah, his family, and the animals from a world-engulfing flood. Noah and his family built the ark according to the instructions from God. The ark had a door in the side, a roof and was made of Gopher wood which was smeared with a form of pitch resin. This painting shows a curving line of animals lining up and entering Noah’s ark. The line includes prancing horses and a lion which looks out at the viewer, while pairs of zebras, elegant, giraffes, camels, tigers, and hippopotamuses make their way to the side door of the ark. Above the ark, birds are fly down from the dark, rain-filled clouds overhead into the window above the door.
The artist was a Quaker minister who had reconciled his passion for painting with his Quaker ideas of simplicity and plainness. He mainly painted landscapes, history, and religious art for his family and friends in Pennsylvania. He did not paint portraits or other symbols of self-indulgence which were not consistent with his religious beliefs. The animals Hicks depicted in this painting resemble the style he used in his earlier representations of his favourite biblical subject, Isaiah’s prophecy of “The Peaceable Kingdom.” The cooperative animals express Hicks’s Quaker belief in humanity’s ability to live together harmoniously with nature.
Calmness and peace, rather than action, characterise Hicks’ compositions. Many of the shapes and forms in his work appear to be organic, flowing and soft. One must pay close attention to the gestures of animals in his paintings to derive meaning. Hicks uses small detail variations as a way to encourage viewers to pay attention to content because they are deliberate and purposeful.
As the popularity of folk art emerged in the early 20th century, Hicks’s works were popularised and became the focus of art historian’s attention. Edward Hicks became a Quaker icon because of his paintings.
Quakers are a Christian group of religious movements formally known as the Society of Friends. Members of the various Quaker movements are all generally united in a belief in the ability of each human being to experientially access “the light within”, or “that of God in everyone”.
The first Quakers lived in mid-17th-century England. Their movement arose from dissenting Protestant groups, breaking away from the Church of England. They emphasised a personal and direct religious experience of Christ, acquired through both spiritual experience and the reading and studying of the Bible. Quakers focused their private life on developing behaviour and speech, reflecting emotional purity and the light of God.
Edward Hicks (1780 – 1849) was an American folk painter and a religious minister of the Society of Friends, also known as the Quakers. He became a Quaker icon because of his paintings.
About 1820 Edward Hicks began to make paintings, using his previous work experience as a painter of coaches, houses, and signs to produce devotional images. Unable to keep up his work as a preacher and painter at the same time, Hicks transitioned into a life of painting, and he used his canvases to convey his beliefs.
- Title: Noah’s Ark
- Artist: Edward Hicks
- Date: 1846
- Medium: Oil on canvas
- Dimensions: Height: 668.78 mm (26.32 ″); Width: 772.67 mm (30.42 ″)
- Museum: Philadelphia Museum of Art
- Artist: Edward Hicks
- Born: 1780, Attleboro, Pennsylvania
- Died: 1849 (aged 69), Newtown, Pennsylvania
- Nationality: American
- Notable Works:
- Is this image familiar to you?
- What does this painting have to say?
- “I’ve never met an animal I didn’t like, and I can’t say the same thing about people.” – Doris Day
Explore the Philadelphia Museum of Art
- “The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons by J. M. W. Turner
- “The Large Bathers” or “Les Grandes Baigneuses” by Auguste Renoir
- “Crucifixion Diptych” by Rogier van der Weyden
- “At the Moulin Rouge, The Dance” by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
- “The Large Bathers” by Paul Cézanne
- “The Death of Sardanapalus” by Eugène Delacroix
- “Noah’s Ark” by Edward Hicks
- Masterpieces of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
“Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood; you shall make the ark with rooms, and shall cover it inside and out with pitch.”
– Genesis 6:14
Photo Credit: Philadelphia Museum of Art [Public domain]