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Ledger Drawing of a magnificently dressed Native American warrior and his horse | Donald Ellis Gallery

Ledger Drawing

attributed to Nah Hi Yurs (Carl Matches), d. 1914
Matches Ledger Book
Southern Cheyenne
Central Plains

ca. 1875-78

graphite and coloured pencil on lined paper

height: 6 ⅛"
width: 8 ¼"

Inventory # P4224-12

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This drawing of a Southern Cheyenne warrior and his mount belongs to a group of works created between 1875-78 at Fort Marion, in St. Augustine, Florida. The artist Carl Matches (Nan-Hi-Yurs) was one of over seventy young warriors who were incarcerated for three years without trial following the massive military defeat of the Arapaho, Comanche, Kiowa and Southern Cheyenne in the Red River War of 1874-75. There are discrepancies in the various records as to Matches’s age at the time of arrest, but it appears he was between nineteen and twenty-five years old. The artist was one of some thirty-two individuals encouraged to create drawings of their previous traditional life, continuing a long tradition of painterly expression with newly available materials such as coloured pencils, graphite and paper supplied by their military captors. The works created during this three year period at Fort Marion offer an opportunity to identify particular artists, evidenced by signatures, as writing is newly introduced to several of the warrior artists. Here we see forms of expression that differ sharply from earlier ledger drawings. Placing less emphasis on warfare, Matches drawings are best known for their passive, almost “photographic” qualities. He provides the viewer with snapshots of domestic life; men on horseback engaged in the hunt, trade and commerce, temporary encampments, dance and ceremonial life, as well as images of daily life at Fort Marion. A sense of nostalgia for a former way of life seems to pervade the drawings, together with a high degree of attention to detail in the costumes and personal adornment of the characters. The placement of elements tends to follow a traditional format; figures move from right to left, and depth is indicated not by foreshortening, but by stacking of figures in the visual field. Colours are applied evenly within the confines of their outlines, with no attempt at shading.

In April 1878, Matches, along with fifteen others, travelled to Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in Virginia, an educational institution originally established to educate newly freed African-Americans after the Civil War. In June 1879, Matches took up residence at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania, where he took the name “Carl Matches”. In 1892 Matches received an allotment of land near the towns of Canton and Watonga, in present-day Blaine County, Oklahoma. He died on October 26, 1914.

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