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Plains Indian Drawings:
The Gerald and Hope Solomons Collection
April 25 -September 30, 2007
Drawings: The Gerald and Hope Solomons Collection,
an exhibition of 30 extraordinary drawings created between 1865 and 1910,
will be on display at the University of Iowa Museum of Art (UIMA) through
September 30, 2007.
The drawings in the exhibition were created on accounting
and ledger book paper provided by non-native soldiers and settlers. Drawn
by members of the Cheyenne, Crow, Kiowa, Arapaho, Sioux and other peoples
during the height of 19th-century Plains Indian culture, they capture the
vibrancy of the pre-reservation era. (right: Old White Woman Ledger:
"Cheyennes Indians on there [sic] way home from the Sioux Tribes at
Dakota," 1880-1890. Gerald and Hope Solomons Collection)
"Hope and Gerald Solomons have been wonderful contributors
to the museum's collections, most notably their outstanding ancient American
ceramics," Howard Collinson, director of the UIMA, said. "We are
very grateful to them for sharing these precious documents of the art and
history of native America with the UI and with all Iowans." The collection
is a promised gift to the UIMA from Gerald and Hope Solomons.
The drawings in the collection herald a period of transition
for the Plains Indians, depicting a culture in contact, and increasingly
in conflict, with whites. Many of the drawings offer complex visual narratives,
often recording the stories of warriors returning from battle. Others represent
Some of the drawings reflect the increasing influence of
Western European approaches to representational art, as the artists began
to add perspective, shadows, and greater detail to their depictions of the
The exhibition is open to the public free of charge.
Wall text from the exhibition
- "Plains Indian Drawings: The Gerald and Hope Solomons Collection,"
an exhibition of extraordinary drawings created between 1865 and 1910 by
artists from the Cheyenne, Crow, Kiowa, Arapaho, and Sioux, is on display
at the UI Museum of Art through Sept. 30, 2007.
- The collection includes 30 drawings from the so-called Douglas Ledger,
the Sioux Ledger, the Old White Woman Ledger, as well as a rendering on
muslin. It is a promised gift from longtime local patrons of the arts Gerald
and Hope Solomons.
- "Hope and Gerald Solomons have been wonderful contributors to
the museum's collections, most notably their outstanding ancient American
ceramics," Howard Collinson, director of the UIMA, said. "We
are very grateful to them for sharing these precious documents of the art
and history of native America with the UI and with all Iowans."
- For the University of Iowa, the gift represents not just the addition
of a rich heritage to the museum's strong North American holdings but also
a chance for university students, scholars and visitors to the museum to
interact with the drawings.
- Indeed there is much to learn from them.
- Pictoral narratives rendered on bison hide and rocks had long been
important to Native peoples, who used them to record personal and tribal
histories. But with increasing contact with white settlers, the ways in
which artists rendered these histories changed.
- As Bison became scarce -- they were being killed off by white settlers
-- Plains Indians began recording their lives through drawings in pencil
on lined ledger books traded, stolen or received as gifts from military
trading posts or through trusted settlers.
- But the changes Plains Indian artists chronicled extended well beyond
the materials they used.
- The subject matter varies greatly from drawing to drawing, from serene
domestic courting scenes to wild gun battles with faceless U.S. infantryman.
- "The drawings show the transition of American Indian art over
increasing contact with whites and they represent actual historical events,"
said Dr. Christopher Roy, professor of Art History at the University of
- The collection has been invaluable to the course on American Indian
art that Roy teaches. He uses the collection to show his students the change
in art and materials as the Indian environment rapidly changes during the
late 19th and early 20th centuries.
- Even at the time of their creation, Plains Indian ledger drawings were
high in demand among white settlers, some who saw in them curiosities and
souvenirs from time spent in "Indian country," others who recognized
their artistic value.
- "These drawings have been valuable to collectors for a long time,"
said Roy. "But they have also been well-received in contemporary galleries."
- "I use them to show my students the change in art and materials
as the Indian environment deteriorates," Roy said.
- Earlier drawings in the collection display some of the stylistic characteristics
that had long dominated Native histories: abstract figures, sparse use
of space, the use of footsteps to depict the passing of time, a focus on
individual people and animals.
- Later drawings in the exhibition reflect the increasing influence of
Western European approaches to representational art, with artists adding
perspective, shadows, and greater detail to their depictions of the human
form. Drawings from the "Old Woman Ledger" and "Sioux Ledger"
in particular feature subject matter that fills the entire piece of paper.
- But beyond the more formal ways visitors can study the drawings from
an art historical perspective, there is no denying the sheer immediacy
of these documents, which convey the universal human impulse to record
- "The Solomons' collection is a representation of Indians by themselves,
through art, depicting events in their own lives," Roy said. "That
makes this a very special collection."
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