THOMAS HICKS (1823–1890)
The Sisters, 1874
Oil on canvas, 27 1/8 x 20 1/8 in.
Signed and dated (at lower center): T. Hicks / 1874
EXHIBITED: National Academy of Design, New York, 1874, 49th Annual Exhibition, no. 185, lent by Mrs. George Whistler // Spanierman Gallery, New York, 2010, In Praise of Women, illus. in color
EX COLL.: Mrs. George Whistler; private collection, Hudson County, New Jersey, until 1947; to private collection, and by descent, 1947–2007
The Sisters is a charming and beautifully executed portrait of two sisters in an outdoor setting. At first glance, The Sisters seems like it is a genre scene. One of the two well-dressed young women stares contemplatively out towards the viewer while she plucks at a daisy, while her sister stands beside her, arm wrapped around her waist, and stares somewhat wistfully at the flower as its petals are removed. The picture’s “he loves me, he loves me not” theme aligns it squarely within mid-century American genre painting, which often featured subjects of lighthearted sentiment. Hicks cleverly integrated this sentimental subject into his out-of-doors portrait of the two sisters.
Hicks painted The Sisters in 1874 and showed it that year at the annual exhibition at the National Academy of Design, New York. The painting was lent to the exhibition by Mrs. George Whistler, and while it is not known who she may have been, it is likely that she is either the mother of the two sisters depicted in Hicks’s painting, or perhaps is one of them herself.