JERRY GOROSKI is the consultant appraisar to whom I refer inquiries about Scriver bronzes. He is formally trained and certified to do assessments and knew Bob Scriver as well as working for the CM Russell Museum in Great Falls. His gallery is called "Open Range Art."


Sunday, November 27, 2005

Art of the West, notes on Nov/Dec 2005

Yellow slickers: P. 21 Kelly Donovan’s “Easy Goin” -- horses crossing a river.p. 65. Packer on a white horse by Gary Lynn Roberts. All his primary riders look the same.

Eating places: Couldn’t see any. Maybe you can.

Doorways: p. 40 Schmid’s “Red Door II,” only 8”x7” but quite sophisticated composition of a European stone building with a fellow in a beret standiing outside reading the newspaper.
p. 58: Front door of the San Jose Church by Walt Gonske. Strong simple adobe lines against a dark blue sky.

Pino ad on page 19. I don’t know how to “do” links, but if you go to this URL: There’s an interesting discussion about Pino. He’s another of the paperback cover artists and illustrators (like Terpning and many others) who has moved over to easel painting.

Money reports:
Maynard Dixon Country 2005 gala made more than $250,000.
Cheyenne Frontier Days Western Art Show and Sale cleared $562,370. 179 of the 330 pieces sold.
Buff Bill Art Show and Sale totalled $905,920.

Roy Andersen, one of the CAA artists who withdrew, has a triptych featured on p. 84. 52” tall and a total of 152” wide, in three pieces, narrating an invented Crow story against a lurid red sky. I’ll pass. (In generaI I find most paintings of Indians pretty bogus or amateur.)

I liked the Peter Brooke bronze portrait of “Michael, Standing” on p. 85. Another I liked was on page 87: Krystii Melaine’s “After Rain,” a man leading a dapple-gray team across the flooded creek. Very simple and real. On p. 93 is a strong bronze bust of a Huron with the patina very well handled. It’s by Barbara Kiwak.

But the real reason for some to buy and hoard this issue is the well-illustrated story of John Clymer’s Lewis & Clark series. (A dozen paintings.) John was another professional illustrator, well-known for his Sat. Eve. Post covers and for reconstructions of other times and places for National Geographic. He was a narrative artist who was careful to do research with the help of Doris, his wife. They often stopped to visit Bob Scriver in Browning, swapping art lessons for anatomy lessons, and even gave us a wedding gift, a very large illustration of a James Willard Schultz story about bison running through camp, tearing up and knocking down everything. (Later I used to claim it was an illustration of our own marriage.)

Clymer’s colors tended towards the pastel, almost a watercolor palette, which is appropriate for the open prairie and seaside vignettes. They are carefully composed, usually along diagonals and curves that guide the eye to the people, which have a similar “Clymer” look though they are costumed authentically and have distinguishable faces, at least in the case of those who left portraits or -- like York -- suggest something specific. It is the people that count, though the scenery is beautiful, and it would be interesting to compare painting-by-painting with Charles Fritz’ series. I don’t have a copy of Fritz’ book, but my memory is that he is following geography more than anecdote.

John was one of the CAA members who didn’t go on horseback but he was a Westerner -- just not from the prairie. He was also well-connected and respected around Connecticut and one of the early members of the Society of Animal Artists and other professional groups. He was a mild and honorable man who never did harm, held a grudge, or worked an angle as nearly as I could tell. If he had, I think Doris would have straightened him out.

When I was a little child, I tore Clymer’s painting of stampeding horses out of a magazine. It was a double-page ad for a gasoline company, as I recall, and I had no idea who John was at that time. Bob said he took a terrible ribbing about the picture because there was absolutely no dust raised by those trampling hooves! I didn’t care about realism. To me they were like Varga girls, beautiful pastel living flesh.

The Eiteljorg Ad in SouthWest Art

In my review of the Southwest Art magazine for December, 2005, I neglected to mention that there is a "grid" painting on page 121. The subject is ochre and sienna plus darker colors (black and white in the center rectangle) and appears to be architectural in subject matter: in fact, a bridge.

The painting is by James Lavendour, a Walla Walla tribal member. It is featured in an ad by "the new" Eiteljorg Museum with the motto "Into the Fray." It announces the Eiteljorg Fellowship for Native American Fine Art 2005. I take this to mean attention to creation rather than focus on conservation of artifacts.

Raymon Gonyea, who is the curator of Indian arts at the Eiteljorg, was in Browning at the Museum of the Plains Indian in the Sixties. He was standing on sinking sands then, but he was a good friend and we learned from him.

I'll try to write more about the Eiteljorg later, though I've never been there. It's one of the newer museums of its kind.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Cowboy Artists of America in December, 2005

Kristin Bucher, editor of “Southwest Art,” in her editorial for December, 2005, did a nice balancing act when talking about the most recent changes in CAA. Briefly, she told us that some important members have been lost: Ray Swanson (deceased young), Roy Anderson, Robert Pummill and Jim Reynolds (the original “yellow slicker” artist -- his are often wet with rain).

On the other hand, the group -- which no one on the outside expected to persist, since keeping “cowboy artists” within a boundary is roughly like herding cats -- has met its fortieth anniversary. They did a smart thing: returned to the former Oak Creek Tavern in Sedona, AZ, where the organization originated in the high spirits resulting from participating in a trail drive. I wonder who actually attended.

Kristin notes that the group includes a couple of dozen members, but I think the original membership was quite a bit smaller and the number of members who have traveled through is MUCH larger. For a while there were female members. For a while there were “associates,” sort of aspiring CAA members. I’d like to see a list of ALL the members of every sort. The four who left this time had been long-time members.

An organization cannot last forty years without changing with the times, but CAA leapt from a scene where “cowboy artists” were just a kind of folk phenomenon, to a market today that approaches a million dollars per painting. (For some reason, though sculpture is more expensive to produce, it’s the paintings that get the high prices.) The original premise of CAA was that all the artists were especially good because they were actual practicing cowboys who could at least ride and were REQUIRED to show up once in a while to ride and re-”bond” with the other members. In those days, it was assumed that authenticity was one of the major dimensions of good cowboy art. One of the continuing tensions in the group was that some were better at drawing or whatever than others were, but they were good buddies, had been there at the beginning, and WERE cowboys.

Now people want to join because the quality of the art as art is high so that art buyers who can’t really tell what’s good will have some assurance. The reason the art has become so good is because of the migration of trained illustrators out of the NE into SW studios. Today’s CAA members might or might not have a little cowboy in their background. (Of course, that migration happened a few decades ago and many of those folks have aged and gone on ahead.) What’s more painful is that the camaraderie -- one for all and all for one -- seems to be breaking down as skill and high sale prices become the more important criteria. The gentlemen’s code of the NE artists has also been left behind.

The departure of the noted artists is probably not as serious as the hardening of attitudes and business practices (which have always been contentious) brought on by association with the print industry. The people who put out prints are frankly corporate and their lawyers are steely. Artists who are bound to them by contracts and big incomes soon realize they are captives.

This has lead to a souring of relationships with secondary businesses like index websites, for instance, “” which also had a major gunslinger-type shootout last summer with CAA. I have no idea whether this is related to the leaving of the four artists. AskArt deleted all CAA members in the aftermath of CAA lawyers’ accusations over photos of the art, which seemed to be only the mask for the real issue: AskArt publishes auction results and some artists were not doing well at auction. (At least one artist who stepped out of CAA is now posted on AskArt again. The website is a major source of information for curators, buyers, writers, and so on.)

So Western art auctions, which have contributed to the major jumps in price, have also made some artists vulnerable. There are a lot of them, the prices are taken as indicators of quality whether or not they actually are, and the artists cannot control them. They tell me that when Bob Scriver’s bronzes didn’t sell well at auction, his fourth wife actually wept. (Of course, she drank and that makes people sentimental.)

Cowboy Artists of America are used to being admired. Those who weren’t, quietly stepped out. And one of the by-products of this admiration is that people collect artists as much as their art. So buyers expect to be guests in the artist’s home, expect “their” artists to attend their social events, and so on. This is a corporate model, maybe, except no golf. But it is very high pressure, esp. for people who are naturally more attuned to long days at the easel in their studio. There is often great emphasis on how congenial a particular artist might be. In my experience, these individuals are likely to be people who praise your spouse on top of the table and kick your dog under the table.

One of these people swept in here to the Blackfeet reservation a few years ago with a lot of giclee prints under his arm (instead of beads and silk ribbons), demanded a lot of accommodation in terms of rounding up scenes and models he could photograph, and left at the end of a week or so. He and his print company has made millions, the local people have giclee prints on their walls without really knowing what they are, and this artist has moved on to the next reservation -- all while claiming enormous rapport and sympathy with Blackfeet, about which he knows little or nothing. This observer was not impressed.

I wonder whether CAA could persist if Joe Beeler, one of the founders, were to be lost from the group. His personality seems to exceed all the others even as he tries to be inclusive. He is a carrier of the original CAA vision and often a diplomat in their midst.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Southwest Art, December, 2005

“Special still-life issue”


Yellow slickers: p. 65. Not exactly, but a couple of James Bama guys in waxed canvas dusters.

Eating places: P. 74: Hilarie Lambert’s Parisian and tres elegante dining room. P. 78: Lindsay Goodwin’s equally elegant celebration of light, paneling and wine glasses.

Depicting writing:
On pg. 58 there’s a purple rabbit typing and a lady in a patio chair with a notebook.

Doorways: p. 42 The front of a ‘dobe strung with Christmas lights. p. 67 a very fantastic and un-Western door to a house with Gothic windows and fairy in a tree out front. p. 119 Actual doors to order! Works of art, though.

p. 107: One of the top best toys this year is a plain cardboard box. This is a painting of four plain boxes, mostly toward the top of the painting, all boxes open, welcoming.
Most complex:

Most haunting: p. 73. Oreland Joe steps away from his usual classic and restrained stone carvings to both paint and cast the same strange shape of a face topped with frondy feathers and looped with turquoise beads.

Money marks:

$25,000 & gold medal to Morten Solberg for “Morning Flight,
Olympic National Park." Painting is shown on p. 128. A heron flying over a
$1,055,000 total sales.
More than $900,000 total sales. Highest yet for them.
Krystii Melaine’s “Moving Cattle” and James Bama’s “Black Elk’s
Great-Great-Grandson” each sold for $30,000.
$111,000 total sales.


The classified ads feature two (relatively) big color ads with the identical photo of a Remington bronze. THESE COMPANIES ARE BOGUS!! They are selling illegal replicas and castings, some of them bearing very little resemblance to the originals and some of them evidently close copies done from photos or maybe molds pulled from legitimate castings. We’ve been hearing about these bronzes, cast in SE Asia like those cheap clothes you love. They claim to be “wholesale to the public.” Believe me, there is no such thing as really fine art bronzes that are “wholesale to the public.”

Aside from their dubious source, these castings are ruining the market for authentic American Western castings because only highly experienced people can tell the knock-offs from the real thing. Some worried people simply make a rule: never buy bronzes. Amateurs are likely to end up with something that has no provenance, which is the real key to art value. (Provenance is being able to document the source of the art and the various owners until the present.) People with no real eye for art are liable to buy stuff that doesn’t even resemble what it purports to actually be. (Take a look at what is supposed to be Rodin’s “Thinker.”)

Southwest Art magazine should be embarrassed for allowing such people to run ads. It is simply false-advertising and piracy. Probably the person who runs the ad section has little contact with the editors, who presumably know better, but this is pretty serious and whoever has the authority ought to draw a line.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Rex & Iola Breneman Bequest

Rex and Iola Breneman were customers of Bob Scriver for many years, building up a repertoire of bronzes, large and small, including some modeled specifically for them and sold with the copyright, and castings of the spectacular rodeo bronzes done at the end of the Sixties. Recently the Brenemans donated one hundred Scriver br0nzes, worth more than $350,000, to the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame Center of Western Heritage and Cultures: Native Americans, Ranching and Rodeo. (The website is where you will see Teddy Roosevelt looking “bully” in hair chaps.)

Located in Medora, near Roosevelt’s ranch, the North Dakota Hall of Fame is sort of a northern counterpoint to the Oklahoma Version where another set of Scriver rodeo bronzes is located, specifically the heroic-sized portrait of Bill Linderman that got him started on rodeo subjects in the first place. The bronzes are now displayed in the traveling exhibit gallery. Dickinson State University, which Scriver attended, cooperated by storing and displaying pieces. They will circulate through the schools in the winter when the museum is closed.

Rex, a WWII and Korean War Air Corps bombardier, was a little guy -- like a cowboy -- and ran a service station in Coram on the West side of the Rockies. His wife, Iola, sometimes helped Bob corral some of his ever-expanding lists of accomplishments and new creations. Like many customers of Western artists, the Brenemans felt they were part of Bob’s family.

Iola’s nephew, Jacob Bell, also has a website featuring the collections of the Breneman’s, principally works by Scriver and his lifelong friend, Ace Powell. ( There are photos of some of the Scriver bronzes on that website as well as family snapshots and lists of sculptures with their sizes and other data. It’s unclear whether more Breneman castings of Scriver bronzes will be available in the future.

Rex himself has had a series of strokes which have narrowed his life considerably. Luckily, Iola is still her usual competent self and is coping pretty well.

Medora, North Dakota, has a wildly romantic history that is well worth researching (Medora was a real woman, the wife of a Marquis, and her elegant home remains) though it isn’t appropriate to discuss on this blog.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Arnie Olsen resigns from Montana Historical Society

Historical Society director resigns
By CHARLES S. JOHNSON - IR State Bureau - 11/03/05
HELENA — Arnold Olsen resigned Wednesday as director of the Montana Historical Society, a job he had held since July 1999.

Olsen, 55, said he is resigning to pursue other interests related to his doctorate in wildlife biology. He said he will leave the director’s job, which pays about $97,000 a year, in a week or so.

The society’s board of trustees said it will begin an immediate search for his successor.
He previously worked for 17 to 18 years for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks where he served as administrator of the Wildlife and Parks divisions.

Olsen resigned during the closed portion of a teleconference “special meeting” of the Historical Society’s board of trustees in the Capitol earlier in the day.

The board’s agenda announced in advance that a portion of the meeting was to be closed because “personal privacy outweighs public’s right to know,” a determination later made at the meeting. Although the agenda was posted on the Historical Society’s Web site, it was not sent to at least some news organizations prior to the meeting.

Like most society directors, Olsen had his supporters and his detractors on the board and among the agency’s various constituencies. The board oversees operations of Historical Society, which runs the state historical museum, the state archives, a history magazine, the state historical preservation office and oversees certain historical buildings.

In a telephone interview Wednesday night, Olsen said his resignation was voluntary. He said he never intended to stay as director as long as he did. Olsen said he has never remained in any one job longer than eight years.

“I have a lot of diverse interests,” Olsen said. He said he wants to remain in Helena and would like to return to the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks for the rest of his career before retiring in four or five years.

Asked if he received a financial settlement from the board to resign, Olsen said, “All of that is private.”
The press release announcing his resignation told how Olsen spearheaded efforts for the society before the 2005 Legislature’s to secure $7.5 million in state bonding for seed money for a new Montana History Center.

The society is considering the purchase of the land and buildings where the Capital Hill Mall is now located in Helena, a few blocks north of the Capitol and converting it to a new museum and headquarters, a project estimated to cost $40 million. The society is now completing architectural and engineering studies to determine if the mall is suitable for a history center.

Olsen said the timing of his retirement was in the best interest of the completion of the project.
“Looking at the timing of my retirement, I would not be able to see this important construction project through to completion and would not want to leave at a critical juncture,” he said in the press release.

He said he got the project to the point where it needed to be with the seed money from the Legislature and the support from Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

A number of private donors are stepping up now that they’ve seen the state’s commitment to the project, Olsen said.
“The future of the society is bright, and I feel good about the contributions I have been able to make toward its success,” Olsen said. “I wish the society and the board of trustees well as they move forward with their important work.”

Among his notable other accomplishments was the acquisition of the Robert M. Scriver collection to keep it in the state of Montana, the press release said.

Olsen was the ninth professional director to head the Historical Society since 1951, when historian K. Ross Toole headed the society for seven years. Before then, the society didn’t have professional administrators. The average tenure of its professional directors has been about five years.

The Montana Historical Society was created in 1865, a year after Montana became a territory, and became a state agency in 1891.