George Elgar Hicks

(13 March 1824 - 4 July 1914)

Son of a prosperous Hampshire magistrate, he trained in London at Henry Sass's Academy and entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1844. He regularly exhibited picturesque landscapes and small genre scenes from 1848, but his first major painting was "Dividend Day: Bank of England" (1859; London, Bank of England). This was a large 'modern life' canvas, showing in great detail a crowd of investors queueing for their quarterly dividends, and was almost certainly painted to emulate Frith's success with 'Ramsgate Sands' (1854; British Royal Collection.) and 'Derby Day' (1858; London, Tate). Despite mixed reviews, "Dividend Day" was one of the most popular paintings at the Academy exhibition of 1859 and Hicks was immediately commissioned by the dealer Henry Wallis to paint another panoramic scene, "The General Post Office: One Minute to Six" (exhibited R.A., 1860; London, Museum. London). This shows a romanticized view of the rush to catch the last post at London's main office. Although critics found the work meretricious and theatrical, and attacked Hicks for ignoring the dingy realities of London life, the public flocked to see it. In this choice of subject, as with some of his other paintings depicting contemporary life, Hicks was probably inspired by the writings of the journalist G. A. Sala (1828-96).

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George Elgar Hicks (1824-1914), was an English painter during the Victorian era. He is best known for his large genre paintings, which emulate William Powell Frith in style, but was also a society portraitist.

Born in Lymington, Hampshire (variants; abbreviated Hants); George Hicks was the second son of a wealthy magistrate. His parents encouraged Hicks to become a doctor and so Hicks studied medicine at University College from 1840-42. However, after three years "ardous and disagreeable study" Hicks decided he wanted to be an artist. Due to these circumstances, Hicks began training considerably later in life than most artists of the time. In 1843, Hicks attended Sass's Academy and by 1844 had entered the Royal Academy Schools.

In 1847 Hicks married Maria Hariss and six of their eight children were born in the seven years following. He did not achieve much success as an artist during this period and later referred to his art at this time as "small and unimportant." He blamed this on the fact he had little time to study art or interact with other artists, due to a busy family life.

In 1859, Hicks painted his first large genre painting, "Dividend Day. Bank of England" (exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1859); following the success of Frith's paintings 'Ramsgate Sands' and 'The Derby Day' at the Royal Academy. It was a typical genre painting, showing a scene from the Bank of England and featuring a broad range of social classes. He painted several more large modern life paintings in the following years which were generally poorly reviewed by critics. These include
"The General Post Office: One minute to 6" (1860),
"Billingsgate Fish Market" (1861) and
"Changing Homes" (1862).
Hicks' paintings were often of subjects that no other artists attempted, such as the "General Post Office" and "Billingsgate Fish Market". Hicks was one of the few artists that showed lasting interest in the emulation of Frith's style and is generally considered Frith's principal imitator.

By the late 1860s, the popularity of genre painting had declined and Hicks began to focus on historical subjects, leading to society portraiture in the 1870s.

In 1884, Hicks remarried following the death of Maria in 1881. He retired in the 1890s and died at Odiham, Hants, 4 July 1914, before the declaration of World War I (A global war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914, and lasted until 11 November 1918.Wikipedia

Studied medicine in the University of London for some time, but, determining to become an artist, he entered the Bloomsbury School of Art in 1843, and the Royal Academy in 1844. His "Lark at Heaven's Gate," at the Royal Academy in 1855, was his first important picture. It attracted some attention, as did his
"Withe Peeling," in 1857; but his
"Dividend Day at the Bank," exhibited in 1859, brought him at once into popular notice.
This was followed by other works of a similar character,
"The Post-Office " (1860),
"Before the Magistrates" (1866),
"Billingsgate Market," etc. His
"Changing Homes" and "Woman's Mission" were exhibited in 1862;
"Reflected Smiles," in 1867;
"Utilizing Church Metal," in 1869;
"The New Hope" and "The First Dip," in 1870;
"Black Monday," in 1871;
"Ruth the Moabitess," in 1874;
"The Return from Gleaning," in 1876;
"The Fisherman's Wife" and "The Woodman's Daughter," in 1877;
"Alone" and "Forget me Not," in 1878.
"Will he do it?" was in the American Centennial Exhibition of 1876. His
"Faith, Hope, and Charity," at the sale of the Latham Collection in New York in 1878, brought $ 525.

"There is much of the feeling of Murillo in 'The Mother and Child,' by George E. Hicks [R. A., 1873]. It is a group of the size of life. The heads are rendered captivating by an entire absence of affectation and a strong reference to nature. The drapery arrangement is far removed from commonplace, and the color, generally, is tender and harmonious." -- Art Journal, June, 1873. Artists of the Nineteenth Century & Biographical Sketches. By Clara Erskine Clement and Laurence Hutton, 1879.

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