According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, “Hicks visited Niagara Falls in 1819, but…based this composition on a vignette of the falls from a map of North America published by Henry S. Tanner in 1822.” Inscribed around the view of Niagara is an excerpt from Alexander Wilson’s The Foresters, reading “With uproar hideous’ first the Falls appear, / The stunning tumult thundering on the ear. / Above, below, where’er the astonished eye / Turns to behold, new opening wonders lie, / This great o’erwhelming work of awful Time / In all its dread magnificence sublime, / Rises on our view, amid a crashing roar / That bids us kneel, and Time’s great God adore.”
Hicks learned to paint as a coachmaker but found his vocation as a Quaker minister. For much of his life he experienced dissonance between his artistic talents and the austerity demanded by his faith. He is best known for his 62 variations of The Peaceable Kingdom, in which children, livestock and predators gather together in peace and harmony.