Ledger Book Drawing
Arts of the Americas
On View: American Art Galleries, 5th Floor, Nations Divided, 1860–1910
Beginning in the 1860s, Plains warriors illustrated their battle exploits in ledger books and on ledger-book paper acquired through trade and as gifts or booty. This practice continued a long Native visual tradition of depicting individual and tribal histories on hide shirts, robes, tipis, and tipi liners. Native artists often depicted warfare between tribes, as well as between tribes and the U.S. Army. Here two warriors in war bonnets attack a third man wearing a single eagle feather.
Pen, brown ink and wax crayon on wove paper
A. Augustus Healy Fund
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Possibly Cheyenne (Native American). Ledger Book Drawing, ca. 1890. Pen, brown ink and wax crayon on wove paper
, 7 1/4 x 12 1/2 in. (18.4 x 31.8 cm). Brooklyn Museum, A. Augustus Healy Fund, 1992.76.3 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 1992.76.3_transp3552.jpg)
overall, 1992.76.3_transp3552.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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The reservation era of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when Native American tribes had ceded their land to the federal government and were confined to set aside tracts of land, created profound cultural changes for the Plains peoples. The masculine artistic tradition of painting warrior's exploits on hide shirts and robes declined but men continued to record their deeds and their changing way of life in paintings and drawings on canvas, muslin, and small notebooks, or ledger books. Many of these works memorialize individual achievements in hunting and warfare. Some ledger books were carried into battle and "captured" on the battlefield. U.S. Army men who had amicable relations with Indian scouts or were guards of Native American prisoners commissioned others.
This drawing depicts one warrior on horseback with a rifle confront another warrior on foot about to release his arrow from the bow. Still another warrior behind the horse brandishes his rifle. A sword is suspended in mid-air behind his head.
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