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Ledger Drawing

anonymous artist
Central Plains

ca. 1870

paper, graphite and coloured pencil

height: 28"
width: 22 ¾ "

Inventory # P1338a



Reportedly collected at Standing Rock, SD, in the late 19th century
Ex. collection Milwaukee Public Museum, Milwaukee, WI


Donald Ellis Gallery catalogue, 2020, pgs. 34-35

This important drawing is a rare, large example of a Plains visual tradition known as “ledger art”, an innovative artistic response to the upheaval experienced by Plains peoples in the late 19th century. During this period, traditional life ways on the Plains altered dramatically as non-Native settlers pushed west and the military forced tribes from their traditional lands onto reservations.  Trade goods such as glass beads, metals, blankets and synthetic dyes became widely available, as did paper to supplement hide as a graphic medium. The paper used was most commonly lined, originating from accountants’ ledger books, but more rarely, the artist used unlined paper. A common theme in ledger art, as seen here, is the dramatic depiction of a warrior’s daring exploits in battle. One of a group of three drawings formerly in the collection of the Milwaukie Public Museum, this work is exceptional for both its exquisite artistry and monumental scale.

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