Ledger Art

Cheyenne Ledger Art Book Drawing

Ledger Art

Native American Ledger Art consisted of book drawings were the result of paper being introduced to the Native American Indians by the Europeans. Ledger books, originally used by Mercantile Trading Companies to keep their accounts, were given to Native Indians artists who produced Ledger Book art and drawings that illustrated examples of Native American artwork.

Ledger books contained an easily accessible form of paper. Traditionally, picture drawings, pictograms, paintings and art symbols were crafted on the hides of animals, on tepees and clothing. The traditional form of painting on buffalo hide gave way to works on paper, muslin and canvas which are collectively referred to as Ledger Art. Native American Ledger art therefore flourished primarily from the 1860's to the 1920's. Many of the American Indians were fine artists and had inherited a tradition of conveying meanings and stories by using pictures and symbols.

Ledger Art Materials
When Native Americans were sent to reservations in the late 1800's they were provided with paper and pencils and encouraged to draw and Native American Ledger Art was produced. Ledger Art Materials including the following:

  • Paper, Canvas and Muslin
  • Pencils, crayons, ink fountain pens and watercolor paints

Ledger Art - Two Dimensional Art
Traditional Indian painting was usually flat, highly colorful and two-dimensional. Two-dimensional art has two dimensions, most often length and width. Ledger Art has its figures and elements organized on a flat surface, especially emphasizing the vertical and horizontal character of the picture plane. The two-dimensional ledger art was created by painting or drawing methods. The primary element of composition of two-dimensional artwork is line. Some of the pictures and paintings seen in Ledger Art look a little like cartoon figures and are identifiable because of their outline. The lines used in  two-dimensional art is either curved or straight. The lines used by Native American artists in Ledger Art control our vision and create unity and meaning.

Ledger Art - Silver Horn, famous Kiowa Artist
Silver Horn or Haungooah (18601940) was a Plains Indian Kiowa Ledger Artist from Oklahoma. Silver Horn used Ledger Art to convey many traditional Native American images. He created pictures of Kiowa culture depicting daily life, personal experiences, battles and warfare, coup counting and illustrations of various rituals and ceremonies including the famous sun dance.

Native American Tribes who created Ledger Art
Ledger art existed among northern plains tribes such as the Lakota Sioux, Blackfoot, Crow but it was much more prolific among the Cheyenne, Arapaho, and the Kiowa tribes of the southern plains. The reason for this was due to the imprisonment of 71 men from these tribes in 1875. Native American Indians from the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Kiowa, and Comanche tribes were arrested at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and sent to Fort Marion, near St. Augustine in Florida. Captain Richard Henry Pratt  began a program of rehabilitation which included the use of paper, colored pencils, and water colors to produce images of their personal experiences as Ledger Art. In 1878 the government released the 62 surviving members of the group and most returned home to Oklahoma. During the 3 years spent in Florida they produced a tremendous amount of Ledger Art including impressions of the fantastic creatures and monsters that featured in their cultures.

Native Indian Art
Native American Symbols
Native Indian Tribes Index

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Updated 2018-01-01

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