Daily Art Moment: Dakota artist

Rectangular line drawing with no modeling on lined white ledger paper (light blue vertical lines). Two figures in profile facing one another stand to left. A large black horse faces the couple in profile, taking up the remaining two thirds of the drawing. The young woman, far left, wears a red-and-white patterned blanket over a red skirt with black leggings and white moccasins. Her black hair is in braids and she has a red circle on her cheek, a bone or shell necklace indicated by black grided lines, and hoop-style earring. The young man figure wears a black blanket with a white stripe at each side, over black leggings with red and white triangle designs, and red and white-striped moccasins. A red stripe is painted along his jawline and a black-tipped white feather is attached to the back of his hair. The horse wears a red bridle, a white double-horned saddle depicted as a rectangle with three rows of horizontal stripes, and a black-tipped feather on his mane and tail. There is no background and the edges of the paper are torn and stained.

“This tender drawing of a couple courting was created by a Dakota artist at the end of the nineteenth century, a time of great loss and conflict for Native people on the northern plains. Yet the artist chose to depict an intimate moment. We see a young man with his arms outstretched toward a young woman, indicating his desire for her to join him under the blanket for an embrace (and privacy). Drawings like this were often created by their makers to record pivotal events, especially conquests in war. Perhaps this was a romantic conquest that the artist wanted to record from his youth? Or a nostalgic memory of a simpler time? Although we do not know the name of the artist, his community would have recognized the couple from many details, such as the cloth of the young woman’s dress, the stripes on the suitor’s moccasins, and even the very carefully rendered characteristics of the horse who is witnessing the scene. Collected by a missionary, Mary Collins, this drawing was passed down through family and collectors, and will be exhibited for the first time at the Museum later this year.”

Kathleen Ash-Milby, Curator of Native American Art

Unknown Dakota artist. Ledger Drawing, ca. 1890. Graphite and crayon on paper. Gift of Gilbert Meigs and Laurie Meigs in memory of Mary Collins, 2008.115.5, no known copyright restrictions

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