I should really call this "What I'm Thumbing Through Now," since I haven't had much time to read in the past few weeks. Here's (above) an interesting, if somewhat disappointing, book I got from the library: "Plains Indian Drawings 1865-1935." Gee, I love what I've heard about Indian culture, but I have to say that I didn't know the Plains Indians were such bad artists.
The drawings I'm putting up here are pretty much the cream of the crop. The average drawing in the book looked like modern kids drawings, except that modern kids are more likely to draw things as well as people. The cover drawing is great, and so is the famous drawing above, or it should be famous, because so many modern American artists and illustrators were influenced by it.
You see the influence in fashion illustration (above) all the time. To judge from the Indian drawings in the book, American Indians were fascinated by what they wore and painted on themselves. They didn't spend much time on getting a likeness in the face, or on getting the muscles or the perspective right...it was all about the clothes. Apparently Plains Indians were more obsessed than we are about looking good.
A quick digression: I just stumbled on a picture (above) of Steinberg, and I thought you might want to see what he looked like.
Of course the Plains Indians were nomads, and I suppose nomads haven't much use for permanent pictures. Even so, these drawings might be an insight into the kind of thing the artists valued. They certainly were clothes-conscious, and they evidently considered battle a good excuse to show off their finery.
Like many primitive people they seemed to think nature was an unfit subject for art. Trees and mountains seldom appear and when they do they get the short shrift. There are no still lifes of a bowl of apples, no glorious sunrises and star-filled nights, no animals except horses. Teepees were drawn with an emphasis on the designs painted on them.
For an artist like me the Indian life depicted in these pictures seems pretty boring. Like the Homeric Greeks their real art form seemed to be the cultivation of character and one's own personal legend, together with horseback riding, hunting, dressing nice and war. The drawings are oddly humorless and indicative of a lack of interest in the world around them. You only realize how sophisticated the outlook of modern man is when you have something like these for comparison.
I'll note that these pictures may have been made by mostly non-artists. It's possible that all people who don't draw frequently draw similar subjects, i.e., other people and their interesting clothes. Maybe I'm reading too much into these drawings.
I'm also reading a book called, "The Pictorial History of Radio." Early on broadcasters devoted air time to music, and this (above) is how they did it. They played records in front of a horn.