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RPD (The Reverend Percy) Hicks 1903-1973

Left and below, two wonderfully evocative paintings of the Ontario countryside by Canadian master painter Percy Hicks, probably done in the 1960s.

Left spring is just arround the corner on the south branch of the Thames River near Dorchester.

Below a millpond is just warming in early spring, after a long cold winter...

What artists would not be proud to have these gems as crowning jewels in their portfolio.

Henry Burr (1885-1941): "When You and I Were Young Maggie" 1916

You are listening to an original recording featuring one of Canada's very first recording artists, Henry Burr, singing one of the world's most beautiful songs, written by George Washington Johnson from Glanworth, ON, and his friend James Butterfield, in 1866. Henry Burr from New Brunswick, started recording in 1902 while in his teens, and, with some 12,000 recordings to his credit, was the most prolific recording artist of his generation.

In 2005 this song was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

"Despite my living on the other side of the Atlantic in England, I have fond memories of my Grandfather. He was a warm, affectionate, generous, kind, caring man, with a wonderful sense of humour."
- Sara Elisabeth Hicks
Seldom does a portrait so bespeak the inner man, so fondly remembered by his granddaughter. But besides being a kindly family man, this small town Canadian Anglican minister harboured a great talent.

He was one of Canada's great artists

RPD Hicks: Richard Percy Daniel (known as Percy) Hicks, was born in England at One House, Stowmarket, Suffolk, on 20th August 1903, to Bernard Wimsett and Anna Mary Hicks.

A Raw Deal: Percy was dealt a raw deal as a child. He was illegitimate, so he spent his childhood years in an orphanage until the age of 14, when he was returned into his mother's care - she had remarried - until he was 'of age'.

Giving the lie to the pop psychology current everywhere these days, that arid childhood experiences explain and justify the most horrific acts of criminal behaviour, Percy went on to triumph, not only as a human being, but as an artist as well, giving back, in the end, far more than the world gave him to start with as a child.

The photo (left) was taken just before Percy emigrated, as a proper young gentleman of 19, to Canada in 1922. Who could have guessed what a past he had - and what a future?

Percy's commitment to the Church and his academic prowess earned him a scholarship to read Theology at Emmanuel College, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. In 1928 he graduated as a priest of the Anglican Church. He worked in the Saskatoon Diocese until 1942.

Saskatchewan Sweethearts: During this time he met a nurse, Eunice Mary McCusker, who taught Native children at Onion Lake Reserve in Saskatchewan. Two kindred spirits - sharing the same life goals - met, and were married in 1932. They were to have four children.

In 1942 Percy became a Chaplain in the Canadian Army, and served overseas until 1945.

Right, as he was at that time, painted in 1944 by DF Beultin.

Percy began sketching in Saskatoon in 1946 under R N Hurley, a well known prairie watercolour artist who encouraged Percy to develop his interest in art and paint for himself.

On moving to Clarksburg, Ontario, Percy studied in Toronto under LAC Panton and Rowley Murphy.

The family moved to London, Ontario in 1950 where Percy continued to study painting at the University of Western Ontario and under Clare Bice at evening classes at HB Secondary School. He also studied under Herbert Ariss and Jack Chambers, and under Carl Schaefer for 5 years.

In 1957 he was appointed Anglican Minister at Thorndale and in 1961 at Dorchester, Ontario.

Percy painted After the Fire, below, near Hamburg, ON, capturing wonderfully the dried up boards on the school. One can practically feel the raspy tar paper on the roof, see wisps of old spider webs just hanging among the shards of broken glass in the window.

Right is his Manitoba Maple, showing a skill as accomplished as Lionel Lemoine Fitzgerald, at capturing the limbs, branches, and twigs of a sleeping tree, just waiting out the cold winter till all could blossom again in the spring.

His Gathering Hand:

Percy clearly revelled in family life.

That he succeeded in giving his children the comforting start in life which he never enjoyed, is reflected magnificently in all the faces of this family snapshot from the 1930s.

But always, there was the lure of painting the Ontario countryside, which he made his own. Left below is a Christmas card received by members of his flock when he ministered in Dorchester, ON. It captures vividly how January looks in the countryside around the Thames River.

Below his 1961 view of Mary Hill, ON with a roiling sky above the church reminding us that the building is merely the earthly conduit to the Lord who watches over us all.

Percy retired from his churchly duties in 1970 and settled in London, Ontario

But he never quit painting. Over the last few years of his life, Percy taught night school classes in watercolour painting. Troubled with angina, and recovering from bladder cancer, made painting outdoors very difficult and he began to fret that his painting days were over.

Fortunately, his son-in-law, Rex Smith, suggested he take slides of the scenes he wanted to capture and then execute the painting in the warmth of his indoor studio.

Consequently, later paintings have two dates, the one for when the slide was taken, and the other for when the picture was completed.

From 1951 until 1972, Percy exhibited widely in one man, group, regional, and national exhibitions, and was elected to the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour and the Ontario Society of Artists.

Right, another Christmas card, and below, along with other artists, Percy (center) helps to judge art and sculpture at an exhibition in London, ON.

In 1963 two of Percy's paintings found homes with the Lord Mayor of London, England, and the Archbishop of Canterbury. Two more of his paintings are at the UN in New York.

During Canada's Centennial Prime Minister Pierre Eliot Trudeau received an RPD Hicks painting, as did many of the London Ontario high schools. Percy must have laughed at the "celebrity" treatment he received by being featured in caricature by famous Canadian political cartoonist Merle Tingley.

The work of RPD Hicks is also represented in the London Public Library and Art Museum and in numerous private collections.

Right, Percy at work in the field.

TheCanadaSite.com is grateful to Sara Maddocks (left), and her family members, and friends, for supplying the text, the photographs, and images for this celebration of the life and work of this Great Canadian Artist.

The Tradition Lives On: Carrying on the great artistic traditions of her grandfather, Sara is well known in the UK for her wonderful doll creations.

Visit her splendidly enthusiastic website "Cloth Doll Creations UK," which offers a smorgasbord of doll delights for all seasons and every taste.

If you have a Percy Hicks painting or photograph, why not give us a call. We would love to add it to this page that honours his life and work.

c Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996 & 2000 & 2005