I have to admit, upon my first viewing of this painting, the title made me wince—namely the usage of “Mission”—as it might seem that Hicks is assigning the “Companion of Manhood” role upon the woman, placing her as his subordinate. That said, I’ve returned to this work to evaluate it in context of the age in which it was produced while also keeping in mind that the artist is most likely depicting a husband and wife, who are by marriage companions of one another, and as classic wedding vows state: “… For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part.”
The effective presentation of the two subjects creates a very emotional scene. The husband, with his face obscured by his hand, is obviously distressed, while the woman, stationed at his side, is ready to provided support.
In my mind, a second painting titled “Man’s Mission: Companion of Womanhood,” with the husband comforting his wife in a similar manner, would make for an appropriate pair. However, in “Man’s Mission” our husband would probably complicate matters further by giving advice rather than simply listening to his wife’s dilemma.
Some might also argue that men need women a lot more than woman need men.
That aside, I love how Hicks beautifully renders the details throughout this stark interior scene.