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, December 02, 2007


This posting begins as a post already made on, but continues with a few more specific questions.


Unintelligible as much of the theory-based post-modern culture criticism has been over the last few decades, many far-reaching questions have emerged that are quite significant in terms of Montana lives. Naturally, much of it has had to do with Native Americans, but much of it also is very relevant to European-based peoples, to say nothing of the African and Asian heritages. Many of these issues are about education or museums, which most of us probably think of as educational. Since Montana formed as the Industrial Revolution was transforming the planet, much of this material is crucial to the future.

What IS a museum? In preparing Bob Scriver’s biography, I read a number of books that examine the origins of museums and the history and development of collections. Mostly they seem to have arisen from people’s natural inclination to save things they liked or that seemed to have value. The early Popes had a room like a vault where they kept precious objects, often commissioned from outstanding artist/craftsmen or perhaps gifts from great kings and leaders. In the modern United States, objects created in crystal by someone like Steuben Glass -- gorgeous, fragile, and one-of-a-kind -- might be presented.

In the 19th century, when taxonomies were the great obsession, natural history buffs (often amateur) required extensive accumulations of insects, bird skins, eggs, and so on, all in the interest of grouping them into categories and thus discovering something about creation. This was one of the duties of Lewis and Clark. (Now, of course, all those taxonomies and “family trees” have been blown away by DNA analysis.)

In those times anomalies and freaks interested a lot of people. Bob was of a “one excellent example of each” turn of mind, probably coming from the assumptions of taxidermists with hunter clients. He was always having to shoo away people who wanted to give him albino skunks or two-headed calves for the Scriver Museum. (This museum is dispersed now.) He continued this frame of mind with the bronzes, keeping “one of each,” which is now the basis of the estate entrusted to the Montana Historical Society.

Another influence from the 19th century was the growing awareness of “the last of these.” This continues today with even more anguish as we see whole species, whole languages, entire peoples, whole life-works, disappear under the wheels of time. Rare-ness has always been a criterion for value. Museums treasure the last dodo bird, the last passenger pigeon.

At present we see a great fascination with family trees so that -- running parallel with DNA studies of inheritance -- many people are looking up their own pedigrees, the begats that brought them to this place and time and the stories of those lives. My newly discovered branch of the Welsh sister descendants brought me two new documents, one a transcription of a Christian Oklahoma homesteader family and the other a book length account complete with photos. The closer we get to the present, the easier it is to find documents such as letters -- until we get to email. The Internet, of course, has been an amazing help when things are scanned and posted.

The idea that a museum is a repository for documents and objects is a strong one with an intense emotional engine, whether or not values are shared by others. When my mother died, one of the hardest problems was finding new homes for her most prized objects: the bisque porcelain hen that had been brought intact in a pioneer wagon by burying it in a barrel of flour, the huge blown-glass bluegreen Japanese float found at the beach, a gold lustreware vase that had been saved from disaster many times. We were shocked to discover that no one wanted them, not even dealers.

19th century anthropologists collected skeletons with no particular thought for their meaning to families. 20th century accumulators stole the heads off “death house” burials with grisly disrespect. Sometimes they kept such objects secret, showing them only to their closest friends, and other times skulls rested on the back bars of taverns, grinning at the clients. Reversing this practice has been a battle for NA activists.

Family is such a deeply embedded aspect of humans that the celebration of family versus their branding as traitors and failures has dominated much of historical interpretation. Quite aside from the discomfort of homesteaders living next to the Native Americans pushed off the same land, is the on-going rivalry among families of both populations, so strong that it still affects ordinary commerce in towns. My cousin once remarked to me that the “Pinkertons” which are the branch of my maternal grandfather were not as good as the “Cochrans” which are the branch of my maternal grandmother, because the Cochrans walked to the West on the Oregon Trail -- making them tougher -- but the Pinkertons came on the train, which was somehow weaker. I pointed out that the Pinkertons came quite a bit later than the Cochrans and would be FOOLS not to take the train, since by that time there WAS one! I think he had gotten the idea partly because a Cochran ranch was honored by the state of Oregon as a “Centennial” 100-year ranch. The Pinkertons never had anything but a prune orchard that went bust. Prosperity and endurance are the pioneer criteria. Maybe they’re pretty basic to all humans.

But there ARE other issues of value. For instance, whether or not Two-Guns Whitecalf posed for Fraser when he created the buffalo nickel is a matter involving considerable prestige and people have spent hours poring through archives to figure it out definitively.

What I’m leading up to is that the Montana Historical Society, kindly accepting papers, collections, and family heirlooms for decades and decades, is bulging at the seams. Storage is so crammed as to make items impossible to locate. Staff works in a small labyrinth, elbow-to-elbow. Yet there has been little discussion of what the real defining goal of the historical society -- much less its museum which many people see as its only function -- ought to be in the future. By what principles are decisions to be made? And if there is anything that the post-modern critique insists upon, it must be a “people’s” decision, not fiats from high-status, high-power, high-dollar experts.

Is the point of an historical museum to interpret what has happened? Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is my favorite example of interpretation-based exhibits, though the Glenbow is Calgary is also outstanding. Or is it to show off the importance of an area or a people? Might it be to store information as a way of researching and developing the future?

Should it be a way of preserving valuable objects like the CM Russell paintings? Or should it be a kind of public gallery developing art in general, as the CM Russell Museum in Great Falls has become, raising questions about the relationship with private for-profit galleries? The CM Russell, which needs to build an endowment for maintenance, lately put its Couse paintings up for auction. Couse was a major SW painter of Native Americans, but the curator felt they were “outside the mission” of the museum. The Montana Historical Society owns works by de Kooning and Picasso, which would fetch a pretty penny on the current hot art market. Can these be defended as part of Montana’s heritage? Or consider the Alberta Bair ranch, stocked with fabulous European objects.

Questions abound and should not be answered by decisions already made without realizing the limitations they can impose.

Some of the issues specific to the Scriver Estate are as follows:

The records of which casting was sold to which customer have not been located by the MHS staff. Many people contact me to find out the pre-stated limit of an edition was and who bought their casting from Bob, because the provenance, especially in the case of bronzes (because the ease of making counterfeits) affects the market value. In the recent case of the Seltzer originally thought to be a CMRussell painting, provenance was a crucial element and the difference in value was tenfold.

There are more than a few duplicate bronzes in the estate. Some customers have told me that they had ordered and even paid money down on bronzes that they never received. They suspect these may be among the duplicates. But where are the records?

Because Scriver's career began with many small tourist objects and because when he made the transition to "art" bronzes rather than what he would call "modeling," and because he never threw anything away but had stored hundreds of "blanks" of these little animals, and because the MHS took these, there arises the problem of how to value them. They are unfinished, originally sold for a few dollars, but are quite charming. I'm told the intention might be to give them away as "party favors" for fund-raising banquets. One of these early pieces was bought from a local person for thousands of dollars and marketed by a private gallery as an "original Scriver." It was, but hardly the same as the later works that sold for thousands of dollars.

Scriver had some collections of his own that he acquired as investments. Aside from the NA artifacts, the Mountie uniforms and the guns, there was a collection of Fery mural-like paintings and another of John Sharp paintings of Blackfeet country. These were dispersed, sold at auction. But he told me about a collection of John Rogers plaster genre scenes, sort of Norman Rockwell scenes. See for more information, such as: The John Rogers Museum is located in New Caanan, CT. on the property of the Historical Society. It has many groups displayed in Roger's original studio and a collection of J Rogers Bronzes on display. I haven't seen this on any list, or unpacked in the Scriver Center warehouse out by the airport, or mentioned by any staff member. Was it quietly sold before the estate was transported? Or since?

Many of these troubling questions are not in the awareness of MHS Trustees. Addressing them will require some expertise. I'm told that it will also require money which the museum does not have. Even in a new building, will there be money for the staff and maintenance that's needed?

Monday, November 19, 2007


BRONZE INSIDE AND OUT: A Biographical Memoir of Bob Scriver is now available through with a nice price knock-down. The book will be ready to ship in a week or so, I'm told.

Amazon also carries new and used copies of Bob Scriver's own books: the one about the rodeo series ("AN HONEST TRY"), the one about the Blackfeet series ("NO MORE BUFFALO"), and the one about the Scriver artifact collection that caused a furor when it was rumored to be worth a million dollars ("THE BLACKFEET: ARTISTS OF THE NORTHERN PLAINS").

If you asked for all books written by Scriver, you will also bring up one written by Phil Scriver which shows a photo of Bob Scriver's Fort Benton monument of Lewis, Clark, Sacajawea, and Pompey. Phil Scriver is no relation to Bob Scriver and has taken advantage of having the same name, hoping to attract attention.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


Today I posted an account of the CMR Catalogue Raisonne Symposium on my other blog: It was an excellent event!

Prairie Mary

Friday, September 28, 2007


From Editorial and Commentary:
The problem with a collector-driven market

By Jane Kallir | Posted 12 July 2007

For the past century or so, the art world has been supported by four principal pillars: artists, collectors, dealers and the art-historical establishment (critics, academics, and curators). From a wider historical perspective, the latter two entities are relative newcomers. The development of art history as an academic discipline, and of public museums, dates back only to the 19th century. Only in the 20th century did dealers evolve from passive shopkeepers to pro-active impresarios, promoting the often difficult efforts of the pioneering modernists with missionary zeal. Public resistance to modernism, coupled with the pressures of international capitalism, gave new importance to dealers and museums, both of which played key roles by superintending the distribution of new art and ratifying its seriousness. At varying points in the course of the past 100 years, the weight of the art world has shifted from one of the four pillars to another. Artists made the modernist revolution; dealers recognised and supported it before academia did; in the post-war period, critics became so dominant that Tom Wolfe lampooned their influence in his 1975 book The Painted Word. And now, it seems, collectors have taken charge.

Over the long term, art-historical value is determined by consensus among all four art-world pillars. When any one of the four entities assume disproportionate power, there is a danger that this entity’s personal preferences will cloud everyone’s short-term judgement. Put bluntly, the danger of a collector-driven art world is that money will trump knowledge. Great collectors should ideally become nearly as knowledgeable as the curators and dealers who help them build their collections. But not all of today’s collectors have the passion or the time necessary to develop this depth of knowledge. Collecting, once the pursuit of a relatively small number of driven individuals, has become far more common among far more people.

This expansion of the art market, made possible by the broader dissemination of concentrated pockets of wealth and by the globalisation of art and related information, has drawn in players who do not have the focused commitment of the traditional collector. The exponential growth of the market, and the genuine gains realised by those who got in early, inevitably fuel the tendency, justifiable or not, to view art as an asset class comparable to stocks or real estate.

Art has also become the greatest common denominator in the new global social order. Today’s rich are an international elite whose members can measure their cachet by the level of VIP services given them at Art Basel and Art Basel/Miami Beach. Anointed by the glamour that today attends the public display of great wealth, the art world has acquired the patina of trendiness that was formerly exclusive to the entertainment and fashion industries. The contemporary focus on trendiness and investment potential, each of which operates on a relatively short timeline, obscures the fact that lasting value in art accrues in the course of generations.

The corollary to a collector-driven art world is that the canon of ostensibly great artists is being largely determined by market forces. The huge prices that have been achieved lately at the top of the market are the result not only of new concentrations of wealth, but of the fact that many people are pursuing the same handful of artists and works of art. Therefore the drop-off from the peak can be steep, becalming the middle market and consigning lesser works and lesser artists to also-ran status.

This is a market with a voracious appetite for alleged masterpieces, and little patience for historical or developmental nuances. It encourages superficiality: rather than collecting a single artist or group of artists in depth, collectors now often prefer to amass scattered masterworks: here a Matisse, there a Picasso, and then perhaps a Schiele. In an overheated environment, the art-historical establishment often finds itself chasing rather than guiding the market. The press must keep up with the latest trends, and coverage of social events and record prices often takes precedence over quiet critical reflection. Museums need the support of trustees, but the most powerful collectors no longer need the imprimatur of an existing museum; they can simply open their own.

If it sometimes seems that the art-historical establishment is missing in action, this is in part because, while the market has been aggressively constructing a new canon, academia has been busy deconstructing the old one. For several decades now, scholars have generally agreed that the white, male, Eurocentric canon that traditionally dominated Western art evolved from historical biases that are no longer morally or intellectually justifiable. Although this change in orientation has literally opened up a whole new world of aesthetic possibilities, it has discouraged academics from making qualitative judgements. Scholarship in areas that are useful to the marketplace, such as provenance and authenticity, has flourished, but overall connoisseurship has declined. Similarly, market pressures push dealers to become generalists, showcasing a hodge-podge of high-ticket items instead of specialising as they formerly did. Auctioneers, operating within a timeframe that seldom extends much beyond the next sale date, focus most of their energies on the highest priced lots. Novice collectors, justifiably wary and insecure, engage consultants who often know far less than the dealers and auctioneers. At every level of the art world, deeper knowledge and principled guidance seem to be in short supply.

The writer is co-director of Galerie St Etienne in New York

© The Art Newspaper 2007
70 South Lambeth Road, London SW8 1RL

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Yesterday I went to Great Falls in order to attend a presentation by Ed Mitch, an entrepreneur who produced speculator bronzes by Bob Scriver and who has now donated his personal collection of sixty or so of them to the Charles M. Russell Museum. He has also given the museum the rights to an excellent DVD of Bob talking about his career and especially his Blackfeet series of bronzes which are also shown in the video. This DVD is available through Pat Bryan, Museum Shop Coordinator, at the CM Russell Museum, 400 13th St. North, Great Falls, MT 59401. 406-727-8787. Mitch is sharing his profit with the Cut Bank kids through some sort of program. $10 plus throw in another few dollars for packing and postage. I recommend the DVD for libraries and schools.

I was late getting to the meeting of “Charlie’s Top Hands,” which is meant to reward people who promote the museum. This is part of the Industrial Cowboy Art Cartel activity that I talk about, which is more a matter of enmeshed museums, historical societies, publications, and gallery owners than the artists themselves who are simply “product” in today’s commodified world. Mitch and his friends were from Cut Bank, where a circle of businessmen tried to get some kind of profit out of Bob’s career and Bob tried to do the same with them, mostly by finding a community that would finance and support his museum, which politically could not exist in Browning. The Cut Bank version as disguised as a World Peace Center with Jesus on top. When that effort failed, the C.M Russell Museum fully expected to receive Bob’s estate and were part of the negotiations after his death. In the end, they were excluded -- some say by trickery. The estate of 1,000 bronzes plus much other material like saddles, wagons, paraphenalia and so on, went to the Montana Historical Society which simply stashed it in a warehouse.

Glacier is a county in the NW corner of east slope Montana where the Rocky Mountains intersect with the Canadian border. The county is almost entirely Blackfeet Reservation except for a little piece where Cut Bank is. A piece of the reservation also extends over into Pondera County, where I live in order to escape the jurisdictions of both the reservation and Glacier County. Cut Bank began as an oil boom town more than half a century ago. Valier started as an irrigation-based town, deliberately separate from Cut Bank, which was considered an inappropriate environment for families. Even in 1961 when the wells were mostly pumped dry, the roughneck bars boomed in Cut Bank. (I was taken pub-crawling by a fellow teacher and swore "never again.") The boom was based on a huge underground pool of oil that was mostly under the reservation but accessible from around Cut Bank, esp. after the east boundary was conveniently moved closer to the west.

Now both the reservation and Cut Bank struggle to replace the oil economy with something else. Corruption comes to mind. When the tribe wants to scare Cut Bank, they threaten to become a separate county. This would mean separating the soft underbelly of Cut Bank corruption from the great deadlocked tribal/federal softly corrupt placenta of the reservation and weaken the soft corrupt underbelly of the state in Cut Bank. The tribe, representing a large and growing population of voters, is attracting considerable state support at last, at the expense of Cut Bank except to the degree that tribal members live there, more and more all the time.

Now back to the Industrial Cowboy Art Cartel. Most people envision the art economy as an artist who sells art, either to the public directly or through a gallery. But there are concentric circles that grow up around that nucleus. One is a circle based on selling advice, information and promotion. Another is a circle based on second-level objects. In terms of paintings, those would be prints or what has come to be called “giclees” which are simply high-quality computer printouts. Well-marketed, these products account for most of the millions of dollars accumulated by people like Terpning or Kinkade.

In terms of sculptures, one can achieve second-level products by creating small, easy-to-produce sculptures like belt buckles -- as the speakers last night were saying, “real bronzes for $35” -- or one can go to a different material. Before Bob could afford to have his work cast in bronze, he was casting them in a very hard kind of plaster, which (alas) is quite breakable though resistant to disintegration. (Pristine plaster castings have been found in the Egyptian pyramids.) The plethora of clever and inexpensive little “bronzes” seen everywhere now are plastic mixed with powdered bronze and called “cold cast bronze” or something similar. They are produced by injection in machinery that uses space age technology for molding. They might cost $20 or less and are not necessarily very accurate.

When he had enough reputation, Bob expanded his sculpture business in two ways. One was by collaborating to make monumental bronzes, which satisfied him the most because of his original love of Beaux Arts equestrian monuments and which were financed by the sales of many small replicas. This was made possible by the invention of ceramic shell casting, also developed for space age needs, which was so much easier and cheaper than the Roman block investment process that foundries sprang up on all sides.

Entrepreneurs saw the potential in this kind of many-small-copies technology and Bob saw the advantages (esp. as he aged) of getting away from the constant struggle of casting. He began to sell the original plaster or plastilene models WITH the copyright -- that is, the right to reproduce for sales. The price to the entrepreneur, of course, was much higher because he was selling the potential profits of an entire edition. Sometimes Bob might contract to sell them the figure for a percentage of future profits and some, like Ed, took out their profit by keeping one of each for themselves. The molds for these sculptures belong to the entrepreneurs and were not destroyed at Bob’s death. One can still buy them.

One of the ways of creating value in the art world is the principle of scarcity. Some dealers will not touch editions over twenty or even less. But these entrepreneurs had no sense of the traditional art marketers and put the edition size up into the hundreds. These were small, charming, traditional pieces, sometimes on subjects suggested by the entrepreneur. My objection to them, and something I argued strongly with Bob which was part of the rupture of our marriage, was that they cheapen the prestige of the work. Some of them Bob would have to admit were “modeling” rather than sculpture, esp. after his serious stroke in 1988 which damaged his talent and left him unable to think straight about business.

There’s nothing wrong with these works except that they violate another of the principles of traditional value: that the sculpture is from the “heart and soul” of the artist, inspired, unique. These pieces tend to be along the lines of what some call the “Grand Narrative” of the settlement of the West which so hypnotizes a certain kind of person who ironically is white but idealizes the Plains Indians, esp. the ones who didn’t survive the genocidal Clearances of the Prairie. The more cynical believers in this point of view admire “Deadwood,” while the more idealistic prefer John Wayne and “Gunsmoke.” Bob Scriver accepted that but at the same time did NOT accept that. He was a complex person. The difference is obvious when one considers, say, “Transition” alongside the “Taking of a Scalp.” At least he spared us his interpretation of an Indian baby being born, though other artists did not.

There were probably a half-dozen of these bronze speculators and the pieces that come out of that context are the great majority of what circulates through the Western art auctions, a vital part of the Industrial Cowboy Art Cartel. Ed Mitch came up with the successful idea of a small series of “coffee drinkers,” characters swigging their non-alcoholic standby. Bob always produced a steady stream of small animals which have been sold more by Rex Brenneman than Mitch.

To keep these entrepreneurs interested, Bob used the same seductive strategies he had always used on customers. He invited them into his small private office (which he had to create when his fourth wife failed to keep the studio decent enough to take people out there) where he would show them art work he’d bought, suggesting that they were the only ones to see it, and telling them little tidbits about his history. Sometimes he suddenly had a cowboy accent, which always aggravated me. He’d pretend to be dumb and outmoded, outclassed by his customer. Once in a while he’d take someone out to the ranch and get them to smoke kinnikinnick in his tipi or ride his horse. Hey, it worked on me! Why wouldn’t it work on others?

These small-town whites were wary of Indians, but fascinated at the same time. Bob had grown up with them. (He was the same age as George Kicking Woman. His best grade school buddy was Jim Welch, the father of the writer. The writer was my age.) The entrepreneurs had no way of knowing just how initiated into secret ceremnies Bob really was, but they felt sympathy for him after the well-publicized dive-bombing attacks of the AIMsters, which they thought represented the whole tribe. As soon as Cut Bank people have enough money, they move over to the Flathead Valley to escape the climate and the Indians, but they are proud of the fact that Bob is buried in the Cut Bank cemetery. The only reason he’s buried there is that Lorraine, the fourth wife, ignored his wishes, which were to be buried on his ranch alongside his horse. Burying him there might have diminished the saleability of the ranch (it was bought by a coalition of Nature Conservancy and the tribe) and anyway, Lorraine’s goal was like that of Mamie Russell: prosperity and respectability. She buried him with his white family.

People asked about the Museum of Montana Wildlife in Browning. It was also bought by the tribe and is run by Siyeh, the wholly-owned business subsidiary of the tribe. The main hall, which once housed the full-mounts, was redesigned by a professional museum team and now shows “Leonardo” the baby tyrannosaurus rex. The workshop part is now the Blackfeet Heritage Center, a shop that is a source of crucial reference materials and novelties.

Del Gage, who was at last night’s meetiing with his wife, has been a state legislator. He is not an entrepreneur in the same way as Ed but he is someone I remember from the Sixties. (I don't remember Ed.) The third speaker I only know because he stepped into the shoes of Wilbur Werner, a friend of ours and supporter of Bob for many years. Wilbur’s law practice was based in part on being the county attorney and much of his power around the state was through his brother, a high official among the Catholics. He was also very active in local history organizations. Epstein married his daughter and when Wilbur retired, sat at his desk as county attorney and history buff.

Most of the information he supplied was wrong and I said so, which was the first that some people realized I was there. I was not invited to attend or to speak. Epstein made several remarks about Indians, which I doubt that he recognized as belittling nor his audience either. They have very little consciousness of “politically correct” protocols, only a nervous awareness that they’re Out There. As soon as the speeches were over, he hastened to me to mend fences. I shall have to write to Miss Manners for advice about how to handle lawyers who put their hands all over people in order to show relationship, dominance and ownership.

I led Epstein over to the Winold Reiss painting of “Old Lady Cree Medicine” to impress upon him that Bob’s foundry was competently run by two generations of her descendants. His reaction was “Oh, I have that print” and then, “Migod, is that an original Reiss? Where did they ever get such a valuable thing?” He knows damn well that Reiss’ family gave the whole collection that was hanging in the room to the Russell Museum. He never heard what I said about Carl and David. He went back to organize select members of Charlie’s Hands to go drinking while the rest of us sat with our coffee.

Even the best-hearted among these people (all men except Norma Ashby) who believe they were dear friends of Bob Scriver do not know and would be hard to persuade that they really WERE NOT part of his inner circle. In fact, Bob’s closest friends were either Indians, wives or Ace Powell. Small-town middle-class people were his family’s friends and peers -- not his. He didn’t drink, he didn’t play bridge except in the very earliest years with his second wife, and he always hunted with a wife and a buddy. But to point this out is to spoil sales and to diminish the prestige of donations. I wonder how parallel this is with Charlie Russell. Actually, I don’t wonder. I’m pretty persuaded.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


For a while now I haven’t taken a friendly walk through the Western art mags, so I thought I’d give a catch-up tour today. Southwest Art: Fine Art of Today’s West (July, 2007), Art of the West: For All Fine Art Collectors (July/August, 2007) and Wildlife Art, The World’s Foremost Wildlife Art Magazine (May/June, 2007).

First some logistical orientation. Most disciplines that lean heavily on culture can be sorted from “low” to “high.” For instance, “low” religion is folk, maybe superstitious, informal, rural, inspired rather than learned, not usually wealthy. “High” religion depends upon education (theology, a “learned” ministry with graduate degrees), wealth and architecture (beautiful furnishings, expensive supplies), and high status in the larger society. All up and down the scale it is possible to accumulate enormous power, to be vulnerable to corruption, or to be captured by the status quo, habits and assumptions that haven’t been challenged for a long time, and the interests of a class of people who derive power from believing that the way things are is the way things ought to be.

Art is very much like that. It can be spontaneous and charming, like grandpa’s whittling, mom’s scrapbooks and the kids’ refrigerator art. It can be as mammoth and intimidating and globally famous as European masterpieces. And then there’s art of the American West. Cowboy art, some assume. The panorama landscape, think others. And a few love charismatic animals of every kind and continent.

For a long time Europe and the closed “academies” that controlled the big shows dominated American art. Then the focus shifted again, thanks partly to some intense characters and partly to war in Europe that pushed some of them to New York City. Then we had Pollock and deKooning and all that shocking abstract stuff. (It’s surprising that all this “modern” art is so old now.) American Western art formed partly in reaction to that, both the snobbery and the puzzlement of figuring out out why anyone would want a painting of “an explosion in a shingle factory.”

Going naively and happily along their own trails, some artists used fine European technique to describe a striking new world, maybe Taos and environs. The living was cheap, shacks were available, the subject matter was intriguingly anthropological. Farther north the clearance of the prairie was underway and artists sat in for photographers, until cameras were ready to pick up the story.

More recently, there were a few ways to save the ranch: rodeo, writing or painting. These WERE cowboys so they painted their own world. Eventually they banded together into the Cowboy Artists of America. All the founders are dead now. There was a major renaissance when the east coast magazine illustrators joined up. They’ve dropped the second “A,” maybe because some of the best artists of the American West are now Chinese, classically trained. They mix yurts and Chinese peasants in with their tipis and Mexicans.

Actually, the Society of Animal Artists formed a little earlier than the CAA. They were sports illustrators at first, calendar artists and so on. They came out to the West to look for animals and backgrounds -- pick up some ideas. Then the natural history history types, the ecologists and buffalo huggers took an interest.

With this as our map “rose,” let’s walk along.

Southwest Art says it is paying tribute to sculptors in this issue, and puts a splendid bronze eagle gripping a salmon on the cover. (The patina helps indicate this is a “bald” eagle, which fishes rather than catching mammals like a golden.) As usual, much of the emphasis in all the articles is about the artists: where they grew up, how they got the bug, how they educated themselves, what they feel about it all. But there are two interesting articles that hinge on materials: one about sculptors working in stone at the Purple Door Studio (I love the photo of the group all wearing their respirators) and one about a couple, Allen and Patty Eckman, who have taught themselves paper casting, lately going to a style of shredded, fringy paper that lends itself to fancy dancers with ribbons swirling or horses with manes flying.

The featured bronze artist is Ken Rowe, who did the eagle on the cover. He came to portraits of animals through taxidermy (one classic path in the West) and --to my eye -- is pretty damn good. Joe Brubaker is a mixed media guy, a California academic fabulist who begins with a wood figure, then goes to ... somewhere in his mind. It’s haunting and means to be.

Advertisers tend to be galleries that pick up on the main stories, rather like fashion mags, but there is always abiding the same scatter of “real” cowboy artists, not-quite-ready-for-prime-time optimists, and historic paintings -- historic both in subject matter and in terms of when they were painted. My own love is always the strong color-work (I don’t even care whether you can tell what is, so long as the colors are wonderful) and there is a lot of it in this issue, some of it with pastels rather than oil paint. Melinda Hall uses it to be witty; Tony Saladino makes it schematic.

The real capper, saved for last, is a dandy: a marble portrait of an octopus, both formally patterned and realistically organic, fifteen feet tall and thirty-five feet long -- not intended for the average sitting room. By Bela Bacsi (there are accents on the first e and the second a), it won the Gold Medal for Sculpture at the California Art Club’s 96th annual Gold Medal Exhibition. Southwest Art makes an Award of Excellence at this show, which went to Brian Blood for a Carmel landscape.

Art of the West is a more modest enterprise, Minnesota rather than Denver based. It is more classically “Western” with scenery and guys on horseback. The painting is not quite so adept, but there is an article on one of the true greats, Maynard Dixon, a man who really sets the high mark for Western painters. Another article is about David Drummond, an elvish-looking fellow who paints Lake Powell and iris in watercolor in a way transcendently pure. He attributes this to a previous career in astrophysics, specializing in optics.

The back page in this mag goes to Bill Frazier, the only attorney in Montana who really knows art. He speaks common sense and practical wariness for both artist and customer. This time, remarkably, both he and Allen Duerr and Thomas Tierney, the publishers, were saying, “Beware of sharks.” Today’s enthusiasm for parking money in artwork has been “blood in the water” for a lot of fast talkers and grifters. Believe them!

Wildlife Art is the most low-rent and this issue’s cover really looks it. One would expect it on the rack next to True West. With the cover off, it would be harder to distinguish from the others. There’s that Terpening again, not so much a man as an industry. A nice lady sculptor of Cowboys and Indians, J. R. Eason. A guy (Bob Boomer) who does Indians in wood. B.C. Nowlin who has developed a shimmering style of Indians just leaving. Don Weller: immaculately skillful watercolors of cowboys on horses. Karen Cooper who works on (gulp) not quite black velvet, but black sanded paper which comes out about the same. Susan von Borstel who paints on slabs of stone. You’ve gotta have a gimmick.

The editorial comment is from Keith Hansen, who just LOVES horses but has nothing to contribute the wrenching controversy over horse slaughter in the US. What about old, broken, blind horses? Oh, look over there at that cute little colt! (He’s on the California coast.)

In summary, Southwest Art is the highest on the sophistication ladder. Art of the West frankly takes the burghers’ point of view in a pitch for good commerce. (They publish “Artfacts Newsletter” bimonthly, including auction info, bios, and so on -- the same stuff you could get from a website like “” but handy if you’re a geezer who hates keyboards.) Wildlife Art is riding drag, a little dusty, but someone’s gotta do it.

Keep them dogies movin’!

Saturday, July 14, 2007




In the Fifties there were a great number of small sculptures meant for tourist souvenirs. One of the very first was a seated musketeer. A horse with an ashtray attached sold very well. A bear against a tree trunk was wired as a lamp. A mountain goat and a cougar stretched out along the ground have shown up on the Internet auctions. A two-piece hunting scene shows the hunter coming over a boulder but the other side shows a grizzly rearing by the mountain goat he just shot. (This has been cast in bronze.) The list below doesn’t specify these pieces.

1953: Whitetail Buck (Single deer, 1/5 scale)

1956: Large Bison Skull (Two more were made later: a smaller one and a bolo-sized one, which is also cast into the door handles at the CMRussell Museum in Great Falls.)

1957: No More Buffalo (Indian series -- old warrior with spear)
On the Lobo Trail (horse and rider series)

1958: Bellowing Bull (small figure)

1959: On the Prowl (small grizzly)
Ace (portrait of Ace Powell)
Grizzly in Trap (large grizzly, seated)
Hunting Party (pack train)
Say That Again and I’ll Knock your Block Off (2 separated cubs)

1960: Ideal Galway Bull (Commission, head only)
Lone Cowboy (1960 cowboy)
Buffalo Hunter (horse and rider series)
Boss of the Trail Herd (horse and rider series)
Standing Grizzly (large, upright)

1961: Transition (Blackfeet series: old Indian, woman and child)
Last of the Warriors (the old man from Transition, alone)
Pronghorns in Action (three pronghorns leaping)
Frontier Scout (horse and rider series)
Arlene (portrait bust of Arlene Lightfield)
Jay (nude portrait of Jeanette Scriver, his second wife)
Trophy Rams (3 rams, one legal, one very nice, one amazing)
Pullin’ Leather (horse and rider series)
Buffalo Calf (small, with cow)
Four o’Clock in the Morning (cowboy about to saddle horse)
Return of the Blackfeet Raiders (Blackfeet series: 4 warriors on horseback)
Reynard’s Brood (fox with kits)

1962: Reclining Bighorn (small figure from diorama)
(None of the other diorama figures were copyrighted to be sold as individual castings.)

1963: Boss of the Trail herd (horse and rider series)
Fighting Elk (2 bulls, one cow, in a tangle)
Casual C.M. Russell (1/5 scale portrait)
Enemy Tracks (2 Blackfeet trackers on horseback)
Price of a Scalp (2 warriors & horse, in battle)
Mary’s Horse (portrait of head of Mary Scriver’s horse)
Pet Fawn (grandchilden Michelle and Lane with a fawn)

1964: Real-Meat (2 Blackfeet hunters and buffalo)
The Buffalo Runner (One of the hunters plus buffalo cow & calf)
The Attacker (just the hunter)

1965: Angry Grizzly (Small grizzly rearing)
Aces High (a card game gone wrong -- a diorama)
Starving She-Wolf (she crouches into moose horns)
Lunging Lobo (the companion male to above)

1966: Buffalo Cow and Calf (small pair)
U.S. Marshall (A revision of a Heikka sculpture)
El Bandito (a matching bad guy)
Into the Wind (a cluster of Canada geese landing)
Coyote (study for museum full-mount)
Fritzie (commissioned portrait of a pet)
Homestead diorama for the Hill County Museum in Havre, MT.

1967: Heroic sized portrait of Bill Linderman Hall of Fame
Life-sized welded steel bison for Great Falls High School
Sheepherder (seated with dog)
Liver-Eatin’ Johnson (portrait of the historical figure)
Tintype (portraits of Bob and Mary Scriver, in costume)
Walking Moose (small)
Christ Head (a study bust for the head of “Eli, Eli”)
Eli, Eli (traditional corpus for a cross)
Chaillot (a study bust of the model for Jesus, Maurice Chaillot.)
R. Walter on “Why Worry?” (Commission -- polo player)
When You Need a .45 (a longhorn right behind a man on a horse)
Dusting Bull Buffalo (small, mopping his head in the dust)
Going Home (fox carrying pheasant)
The Mighty and the Many (Moose on ice brought down by wolves)

1968: Saturday Night in Cowtown (2 cowboys shoot at drummer’s feet)
Mountain Sentinels (mountain goats)
Mountain Goat (portrait)
Ram Looking Back (small, mountain sheep)
Walking Bull Buffalo (small bison)
Jackrabbit (study for museum mount)
Bobcat (study for museum mounta0
Watchin’ the Back Trail (horse and rider)
Butch (commissioned portrait of a pet)
No Hoss for a Lady (humped up horse)
Mother (portrait bust of his mother)
Dad (portrait bust of his father)
To See Eternity (romanticized bust of his daughter)
Pieta (the traditional tableau of Mary and Jesus)
The Wolfers (2 guys)
Silent Death (owl grips rabbit)
Fighting Dalls (small, heads rammed together)
Parade Indian (man in buckskins with horse wearing gear)
Montana Blizzard (Our 5-horse remuda)
The King (small version heroic portrait of Linderman at Cowboy Hall of Fame)
The Contestant (informal Bill Linderman fastening chaps)
Beatin’ the Slack (large calf-roper)
Layin’ the Trap (large team roping)
Headin’ for Home (large barrel racing -- Ann Weathered)
An Honest Try (large bull riding -- Bill Cochran)
Let ‘er Buck (large saddle bronc)
Reride (Large fallen bronc)
Headin’ for a Wreck (large bull-dogging)
Paywindow. (Linderman on a bronc)
Ten Seconds Flat (calf roper signalling “done”)
Twistin’ his Tail (small bull dogger)

1969: Opening of the Sacred Medicine Pipe Bundle (an accurate portrayal of the ceremony with portraits of those who were Bundle Keepers at the time)
Welded Steel 12 foot high “Rustler” for CM Russell High School
Lone Cowboy 1880 (A remake of the popular Lone Cowboy)
Brangus Roping Calf (Portrait of Topsy)
Mexican Bull-Doggin Steer (Portrait of Turvey)

1970 Heart attack

1971 Portrait of Chief Joseph.commissioned by Marquita Maytag
Freckles Brown on Tornado (double portrait)
Tornado (Portrait)
Brangus Bucking Bull (portrait of White Lightning)
Saddle Bronc (Portrait of Jack, our harness horse)
Bareback Bronc (portrait of Playboy)
Twister (bucking bull)
Spinner (bucking bull)
Hooker (bucking bull)
Not for Glory (large pickup men)
Steer Jerker (large single rider roping)
Bullrider’s Best Friend ( rodeo clown)

1972 Rodeo Entry (Bobbie Wirth, rodeo queen)
The Cowboy’s Working Quarter Horse (portrait of Printer’s Devil)
National Finals (Saddle bronc with rider)
A Short Trip (Descent bucking off the rider)
Two Champions (large bareback bronc with rider)
Rodeo’s Most Dangerous Game (Chuckwagon races)
Gold medal designed for Cut Bank, MT Chamber of Commerce to present to the U.S. Olympic basketball team.
The Producer (Oral Zumwalt on Rainbow)

1973 Heroic-sized statue of Jim Shoulders commissioned by Cowboy Hall of Fame.
The Champ (portrait of Jim Shoulders)
Heroic-sized sculpture of Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea commissioned by the Fort Benton Community Improvement Association to do as a Montana Bicentennial Project.
Commemorative medal for Dempsey/Gibbons World Heavyweight Championship fight.
Life sized bust of Harold McCracken to present at his retirement on his 80th birthday by the Trustees of Buffalo Bill Historical Center.
Bust of Phil Lynde commissioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association

1974 Bust of Larry Mahan for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

28 original sculpts for reproduction by the owners:

for Rex Breneman:

Warrior’s Pony
The Lookout
The Golden Dragon
Bronco Head
No Meat
King of the Crag
Horse Wrangler
Rocky Mountain Ram

For Glacier Bronze: Darrel Peterson:

Sign Reader
The War Cry
The Way Home
Scoring High

For Paul Masa:

4 Steer
Red Fox
The Fawn
Buffalo Birds
Prairie Picnic
Nature’s Children
Rangeland Kiss
Morning Warm-up
Pigeon Brave

for Stremmel Galleries, Inc.:

Two Seconds to Go
Friend or Foe
An Early Arrival
Kicking High

for The Outlaw Inn, Kalispell, Mt.:

The Outlaw

for Robert Warden:

When I Was a Kid

1975: “An Honest Try,” the book
Buffalo Bill Cody heroic-sized commission for the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming.
5 1/2 foot circular plaque of Buffalo Bill commissioned for the apex of the Whitney Gallery building at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center.
Bust of Eric Harvie for the rotunda of the new museum, commissioned by the Riveredge Foundation in Calgary.
Heroic-sized version of “Transition” commissioned by the Pacific Northwest Indian Center in Spokane. Cancelled when the institution collapsed.
Rodeo’s Classic Event. (bronc riding)
Belt Buckle for Phillip Morris Marlboro commissioned as a Bicentennial promotion.

Heroic statue of Jim Shoulders commission which was destroyed in fire.
Bust of Montana Senator Burton K. Wheeler. a commission
Montana trapper and a belt buckle commissioned by the Montana Historical Society to raise funds to buy the C.M. Russell painting “When the Land Belonged to God.” Raised $96,000. Edition of 100 sold out in 29 days.
Elk statue commissioned by Dean Krakel II for his book, “Season of the Elk.”
Heroic statue of Charlie Russell commissioned by the CMR Museum in Great Falls.
Bust of Dean Oliver commissioned by Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association
Buffalo Bill (3 sizes)
Lewis, Clark, Sacajawea and Pomp (1/2 lifesize)
Attack on the Wagon Trail
Mounted Trapper
When One Shot Is Not Enough
Howling Coyote
Range Mother
Otters at Play
War Sign
Spring Cow and Calf
Watching the Herd
No Room for Two
Ranch Fillies
The King of the Prairie
Horned Owl on Stump
Bob Cat
Ground Squirrel #1
Prairie Partners
Ground Squirrel #2
Herd Bull
Hereford Bull
Just Sleepy
Prairie Bull
Rodeo Bull
Six Bits
Bob Scriver, Sculptor (Bust self-portrait)
Easy Does It
Cold Maker
40 Below on Snow Shoes
Fluffy Owl
Johnny Appleseed (the legendary character with a saucepan on his head)
The Holy Woman (The most sacred figure from the Sun Ceremony with her attendants)
Untitled geese, ducks, swans and owls

The Explorers at the Marias
Captain Lewis and Dog Scannon, commissioned by Lewis & ClarkTrail Heritage Foundation, Inc.
Bust of Casey Tibbs commissioned by PRCA

Grandfather Tells of the Horse (old man speaks to children)
On the Trap Line (man setting a trap)
At the Beginning (a lone man on a rock)
Before the Horse (family with a dog travois)
The Way it Was (an old woman is seized by death AKA “I am many”)
Coming of the Elk-Dog (an astonished group)
The First Horse (three men try to subdue a Barb)
A Warrior’s Prize (a man has a rope on a rearing horse -- Zuke posed)
The Buffalo Decoy (a man disguised runs for the cliff)
The Buffalo Horse (a man on horseback leads his fast horse)
Yellow Wolf, Setter of Snares (a famous trapper)
The Hide Scraper (a bent woman scrapes a buffalo hide)
Firewood (a bent woman brings a bundle of sticks)

Blackfeet Family Portrait (separate busts)
Old Man (the grandfather)
Kip-Ah-Talk-Ee (the old woman)
White Quiver (a famous warrior)
Pitamakin (Running Eagle, a woman warrior)
Timmy (a child, actually Timmy Cree Medicine)

Three Courtship Scenes (sequence of three vignettes)
At the Spring (first approach)
Prairie Romance (conversation)
The Proposal (a gift)

Owner of the Lodge (the patriach sits on his couch with his pipe)
Hand Game (players and spectators)
Waiting for the Dance (woman in shawl)
Dance Contest (two pieces: drum group and dancers)
Little Brother Goes Swimming (kids bareback on a horse)
The Horse Race (two horses with riders)
Standing Alone (a warrior is picketed in place to fight to the end)
Winter Scouts (two horseback men are muffled for winter)
Straight-Up Bonnet with Boss-Ribs (man wearing Blackfeet bonnet with trailer-- the “boss ribs”)
The Split-Horn Bonnet (seated man with powerful headgear)
The Fast Blanket (man on horseback signalling)
To Take a Scalp (The victim is on his stomach whle the victor saws away)
War Pony (a fine pony, painted and equipped)
End of the War Trail (Tree burial with grieving woman)
He-That-Looks-at-the-Calf Meets Captain Lewis (historical group)
Trade Goods (vignette, 2 Indians, horse and trader)
Onesta and the Sacred Bear Spear (legendary character)
A Warrior’s Vow (sun dance piercing ordeal)
Dance of the Beaver Women (Beaver Bundle ceremony)
The Story of Miscinskee (Bob’s personal badger lodge dream)
Tailfeathers Woman and Morning Star/Scarface (Blackfeet legend)
The Raven Speaks (spiritual guide brings a gift)
The Beaver Lover (origin myth of the Beaver Bundle)
Secrets of the Night (a night horse herder is visited by an owl)
Napi Teaches Them the Dance (a trickster story)
Four Winds (originally created to be a gavel end)
Let the Curs Yap (illustrating a cautionary tale)
Life’s Stream (mother and child with buffalo calf)
Legends of the Blackfeet (an abstract pillar -- might be smoke)
Rodeo’s First Event (bronc)

Winchester Rifle” commissioned by Buffalo Bill Historical Center and Winchester Rifle.
Belt buckle of a grizzly head for the Montana Fish and Game.

Four belt buckles,for the Lewis & Clark Festival Committee, Cut Bank, MT, Chamber of Commerce:
Explorers of Marias
At Camp Disappointment
Near Cut Bank, Montana
Lewis Meets the Blackfeet

Two belt buckles and sculpture, commissioned by Northwestern Bank, Helena, MT.
The Cowboy
The Prospector
Sculpture of “The Prospector,”
Sacagawea for Marguita Maytag
PRCA logo bucking horse (small).
Bridger bust and two frisky colts, commissioned works.
Bust of Corrie, commissioned by.Leonard F. Llewlleyn, her husband.
Johnny Bench, renowned baseball player and catcher.commissioned by Cincinnati Reds
Everett Bowman, RCA roper, commissioned for the new Professional Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs..

Hugh Bennett, first Secretary of the Turtle Rodeo Association commissioned for the new PRCA outdoor sculpture garden at Colorado Springs.
One-and-one-half sized bucking horse of the PRCA logo commissioned by the PRCA Museum.
Dale Smith and Poker Chip commissioned portraits.
One-and-one-half sized portrait of Bill Ward on Sea Lion commissioned for hill in front of the PRCA Museum.

Three one-fourth life-sized pieces commissioned:
Tail Stander
Hard Way to Get Off
Calf in the Way

Five rodeo pieces commissioned by the National High School Rodeo Association depicting rodeo events of the early 1900’s
1919 Saddle Bronc
1918 Wild Horse Race
1917 Single Steer Jerking
1916 Bull Dogger
1915 Steer Rider

One-third life-sized statue of Descent, famous bucking horse, commissioned to be placed on Descent’s grave.
Calf Tangle
A Bad Draw
Hang in There, Cowboy
First Event
Main Event
Final Event
The Broken Rein

1982 “No More Buffalo” the book
Battle of the Prairie 1/5 life-sized
Too Late for the Hawken 1/5 life-sized

Steve and Phil Mayre, Olympic gold medal skiers, portraits commissioned by White Pass Alpine Ski Area.
World Champions (Mahre twins)
“Gold Medal Knees (Steve),
"Going for It" (Phil)

Belt Buckles:
Fort at Fort Benton
Riverboat at Fort Benton

Del Gish
To the Victor
Christ the Teacher (2 sizes)
Prince of Peace
Paul’s Bull
Sagebrush Bronc
When Cutting Was Rough.

Belt buckles:
First sight of the Great Falls of the Missouri
Portage around the Great Falls of the Missouri

Max (Max Baucus)
To Ride a Bull
To Ride a Bronc
HTS Rancher (portrait bust of Harold Thaddeus Scriver, Bob’s brother)
Spanish Barb commissioned by Breyer for their plastic collectible horse series
Spanish Barb ponyhead
Grizzly sketch
Six-point bull,”
Nature’s Beef: Bull head,”
Nature’s Beef Bull Bison #1
Nature’s Beef, Bull Bison #2
Johnny Appleseed
The Orphan
Race to the Rendezvous
Bridger - Mountain Man
Bat Wing Chaps
Coffee Break

The Threat
The Trial
Moonlight Hunter
Pronghorn ‘85
Go for It, Cowboy
The Outlaw
I’m Sheriff Here, Now Git!

Belt Buckles:
Lewis, Clark and Sacajawea
Sacajawea and Pom

An Honest Try one and one-half life-sized for Kansas City Board of Trade Building.
Explorers at the Portage, with Lewis, Clark, York and Scannon. (heroic-sized for Great Falls)
Billy ‘86 (Mountain goat)

Wells Fargo Cargo

Equestrian Teddy Roosevelt. Commissioned by Boone and Crockett for their ranch outside of Dupuyer)
Heroic-sized guardsman with eagle commissioned by Montana National Guard. Not completed.

Scriver Museum belt buckle for the high school rodeo champion.

Counting Coup

Sculpture version of Hornaday’s diorama of the last bison (commissioned in order to finance the restoration of the diorama.)
Tall Tales to Tell (Outfitter pack string)

A Budding Buckaroo
Silence is Safety
The Exalted Ruler (commissioned to help buy the CMRussell painting.)

Part of the Job

Ready for Battle
Movin’ On (Indian woman with travois and dog)

1996: Heart By-Pass Surgery

His First Real Arrow

Heroic-sized portrait of Mike Mansfield -- barely begun

1999 Death on January 29


as preparation for full mounts

1951 Whitetail Deer (White Tail Buck)
1956 Mountain Sheep (Bighorn Ram)
1956 Customer’s animal (Javelina)
1956 Black Bear
1959 Grizzly (Standing Grizzly)
1961 Caribou -- no specimen (Winter King)
1961 Cougar (Deerslayer)
1961 Mule Deer (Mule Deer Buck)
1961 Bison Bull (Herd Bull)
1961 Elk (Bugling Elk)
1961 From a customer’s animal (Ovis Dalli)
1961 Pronghorn (Prairie Buck)
1965 Charlie (Lunging Lobo)
1965 Charlie’s Lady (Starving She-Wolf)
1967 Moose (Walking Moose)
1968: Mountain Goat (Mountain Goat)
1968: Bobcat (Bobcat)
1966 Coyote (Coyote)

Horse & Rider series
intended for Ukrainetz

1957 On the Lobo Trail (geezer on horse with buckled legs)
1960: Pullin’ Leather (bucking horse with fence)
1960 Lone Cowboy (cowboy on ground by horse’s head)
1960 Buffalo Hunter (with his horse and Sharps)
1960 Boss of the Trail Herd (in hair chaps with lariat)
1961 Frontier Scout (in buckskins)

groups of small animals
(All done over the winter of 1961-62)

1. Whitetail deer coming down to a stream to drink.

2. Packtrain just leaving the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Background by Les Peters.

3. Mule deer at a mountain spring with a cougar lurking above.

4. Grizzly trying to get at a marmot.

5. Black bear and cubs encountering a porcupine.

6. Moose in the moonlight along a beaver dam.

7. Bison on the prairie with pronghorn antelope and other animals.

8. Elk harem with the male bugling.

9. Forest fire with cremated elk.

10. Mountain sheep high in the mountains.

11. Mountain goats along the cliff face.


1966 U.S. Marshall (A revision of a Heikka sculpture)
1966 El Bandito (a matching bad guy)
1967 Sheepherder (seated with dog)
1967 Liver-Eatin’ Johnson (portrait of the historical figure)
1967 Tintype (portraits of Bob and Mary Scriver)


1968 To See Eternity (A portrait of Bob’s daughter, Margaret as she was dying of cancer)
1967 Eli, Eli (A “corpus” or body of Jesus as he was dying on the cross)
1967 Head of Christ (A study of the head of the corpus with Maurice Chaillot posing)
1967 Chaillot (A bust of Maurice Chaillot as himself)
1968 Pieta (The traditional mother and son after Jesus is taken down from the cross)
1983 Christ the Teacher (A commission by Carroll College that was never completed.)
198? The Prince of Peace (Jesus sitting and overlooking the land, to be placed on the top of a World Peace Center which would contain a museum of all Bob’s works.)

The Rodeo Series:
(The main pieces are pictured and described in Bob’s book, “An Honest Try”)

All copyrighted in 1968
“Headin’ for a Wreck” (Bull-dogger)
“Beatin’ the Slack” (Calf roper)
“Headin’ Home” (Barrel racer)
“Paywindow” (Bareback bronc)
“Let ‘Er Buck” (Saddle bronc)
“Reride” (Saddle bronc)
“Layin’ the Trap” (Team roping)
“An Honest Try” (Bucking bull)
“The King” (Linderman with saddle)
“The Contestant” (Linderman buckling chaps)
“Brangus Roping Calf” (portrait)
“Ten Seconds Flat” (Calf roper)
“Twistin’ his Tail” (Bull-dogger)
“Mexican Bull-Doggin’ Steer (portrait)
“Buckin’ Horse” (portrait)

All copyrighted in 1971
“Freckles Brown on Tornado” (double portrait)
“Brangus Bucking Bull” (portrait)
“Tornado” (Portrait)
“Twister” (Bucking Bull)
“Spinner” (Bucking Bull)
“Hooker” (Bucking Bull)
“Bareback Bronc” (portrait)
“Steer Jerker” (Bull-dogger)
“Bullrider’s Best Friend” (Rodeo Clown)

All copyrighted in 1972
“Rodeo Entry” (Rodeo Queen)
“A Cowboy’s Working Quarter Horse” (Portrait)
“National Finals Rodeo”
“A Short Trip” (bronc)
“Two Champions” (bronc)
“Rodeo’s Most Dangerous Game” (Chuckwagon race)

All copyrighted in 1981
“A Hard Way to Get Off”
“Calf Tangle”
“A Bad Draw”
“Calf in the Way”
“Hang in There Cowboy”
“First Event”
“Main Event”
“Final Event”
“Tail Stander”

All copyrighted in 1983:
“Del Gish”
“Sagebrush Bronc”
“When Cutting Was Rough”

All copyrighted in 1984:
“To Ride a Bull”
“To Ride a Bronc”

Copyrighted in 1985:
“Go for it, Cowboy.”

Also: many commissioned bust portraits.

The Blackfeet Indian Series
All ought to be pictured in “No More Buffalo,” the book.

1957: No More Buffalo

1961: Transition
Return of the Blackfeet Raiders

1963: Price of a Scalp
Enemy Tracks
The Last Warrior

1968: Parade Indian

1976: Opening of the Sacred Medicine Pipe Bundle
Buffalo Runner with Cow and Calf
Attack on the Wagon Train
War Sign
Cold Maker
40 Below on Show Shoes
The Holy Woman

1977: Grandfather Tells of the Horse
On the Trap Line
At the Beginning
Before the Horse
The Way it Was
Coming of the Elk-Dog
A Warrior’s Prize
The Buffalo Decoy
The Buffalo Horse
Yellow Wolf, Setter of Snares
The Hide Scraper

Blackfeet Family Portrait (separate busts)
Kip-Ah-Talk-Ee (old woman)
White Quiver (warrior)
Pitamakin (woman warrior)
Timmy (child)

Three Courtship Scenes (sequence of three)
At the Spring
Prairie Romance
The Proposal

Owner of the Lodge
Hand Game
Waiting for the Dance
Dance Contest
Little Brother Goes Swimming
The Horse Race
Parade Indian
Standing Alone
Winter Scouts
Straight-Up Bonnet with Boss-Ribs
The Split-Horn Bonnet
The Fast Blanket
To Take a Scalp
War Pony
End of the War Trail
He-That-Looks-at-the-Calf Meets Captain Lewis
Trade Goods
Onesta and the Sacred Bear Spear
The Holy Woman
A Warrior’s Vow
Dance of the Beaver Women
The Story of Miscinskee
Tailfeathers Woman and Morning Star/Scarface
The Raven Speaks
The Beaver Lover
Secrets of the Night
Napi Teaches Them the Dance
Four Winds
Let the Curs Yap
Life’s Stream
Legends of the Blackfeet


Gold medal designed for Cut Bank, MT., Chamber of Commerce to present to the U.S. Olympic basketball team. 1972
Commemorative medal for Dempsey/Gibbons World Heavyweight Championship fight. 1973
5 1/2 foot circular plaque of Buffalo Bill commissioned for the apex of the Whitney Gallery building at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. 1975
Montana trapper and a belt buckle commissioned by the Montana Historical Society to raise funds to buy the C.M. Russell painting “When the Land Belonged to God.” Raised $96,000. Edition of 100 sold out in 29 days. 1976
Belt buckle of a grizzly head for the Montana Fish and Game. 1979

Four belt buckles, for the Lewis & Clark Festival Committee, Cut Bank, MT, Chamber of Commerce: 1979
Explorers of Marias
At Camp Disappointment
Near Cut Bank, Montana
Lewis Meets the Blackfeet
Two belt buckles and sculpture, commissioned by Northwestern Bank, Helena, MT. 1979
The Cowboy
The Prospector
Belt Buckles 1982
Fort at Fort Benton”
Riverboat at Fort Benton
Belt buckles 1983
First sight of the Great Falls of the Missouri
Portage around the Great Falls of the Missouri
Belt Buckles 1985
Lewis, Clark and Sacajawea
Sacajawea and Pom
Scriver Museum belt buckle for the high school rodeo champion. 1989


Charles M. Russell for a competition 1958
Bill Linderman for the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City 1967
Welded Steel Bison for Great Falls High School 1967
Welded Steel Rustler for Russell High School in GF 1969
Jim Shoulders for the Cowboy Hall of Fame 1973
Lewis, Clark, Sacajawea, and Pomp for Fort Benton 1973
Buffalo Bill Cody for the Buffalo Bill Historical Center 1975
Charles M. Russell for CMR Museum in Great Falls 1976
PRCA Logo bucking horse for their museum in Colorado Springs, 1980
Bill Ward on Sea Lion for Colorado Springs, 1980
Descent 1/3 scale for the grave in Oklahoma City 1981
Earl Old Person 1/2 scale for Browning Indian Health Service Hospital 1982
An Honest Try 1 1/2 scale for Kansas Board of Trade 1986
Lewis, Clark, York and Scannon for the Lewis & Clark Trail Heritage Foundation in Great Falls 1986
Teddy Roosevelt half size for Boone & Crockett ranch outside Dupuyer 1988
Composite Lewis and Clark statue in fiberglass for the Lewis & Clark Overlook museum in Great Falls 1998

HUMAN PORTRAITS, Friends and Family

First Easter Bonnet (Charmaine, Bob’s granddaughter) 1958
Ace (portrait of Ace Powell) 1959
Arlene ( Bust of Arlene Lightfield) 1961
Jay (full-length nude of Jeanette Caouette Scriver, Bob’s second wife) 1961
Pet Fawn (grandchilden Michelle and Lane with a fawn) 1963
Tintype (Bob and Mary Scriver as old-timers) 1967
Chaillot (Bust of Maurice Chaillot, brother-in-law) 1967
To See Eternity (Bust of Margaret Scriver DeSmet Paul) 1968
Pieta (Hélène DeVicq & Maurice Chaillot as Mary and Jesus) 1968
Mother (Bust of Ellison Westgarth Macfie Scriver) 1968
Dad (Bust of Thaddeus Emery Scriver) 1968
Bob Scriver, Sculptor (self-portrait bust) 1976
HTS Rancher (Harold Thaddeus Scriver, Bob’s brother, bust) 1984

No More Buffalo (Eddie Big Beaver as an old-time Indian) 1957
Transition (Chewing Black Bone, Mae Williamson, and an unidentified schoolboy) 1961
Earl Old Person (full figure, half-sized) 1982
Opening the Mediciine Pipe Bundle (Charlie Reevis, Mary Blackman, George and Molly Kicking Woman, Louis and Fish, Louis and Plenty Treaty, Dick Little Dog, Joe Gambler, Jim Whitecalf, Jr.,


Casual C.M. Russell (1/5 life size full-length)1963
Bill Linderman (various sized, with the saddle) Heroic version in 1967.
Robert Walter on Why Worry? 1967
Freckles Brown on Tornado 1970
Jim Shoulders (Heroic full-figure) 1973
Harold McCracken (bust) 1973
Phil Lynde (bust) 1973
Larry Mahan (bust) 1974
Eric Harvie (bust) 1975
Senator Burton K. Wheeler (bust) 1976
Charles M. Russell (heroic) 1976
Dean Oliver (bust) 1976
Casey Tibbs (bust) 1977
Corrie (bust, Mrs. Leonard F. Llewelleyn) 1979
Johnny Bench (full figure) 1979
Everett Bowman PRCA Roper (bust) 1979
Hugh Bennett, first Secretary of the Turtle Rodeo Association (1980)
Dale Smith and Poker Chip (1980)
Bill Ward on Sea Lion (one and one-half sized) 1980
Steve and Phil Mayre, Olympic gold medal skiers (full figure, 3 sculptures) 1982
Del Gish 1983
Max Baucus (small bust, quick draw) 1984

Two small nudes: one standing, one lying on stomach

Monday, July 09, 2007


Monday, July 09, 2007


As you may have noticed, I’ve become interested in the Arts Journal blog called “FlyOver Country” ( and have been growling at Joe Nickell, who is in Missoula and therefore doesn’t realize there is anyone on the eastern side of the Rockies and thinks there is no other arts blogger in the state, totally overlooking “The Eye of the Beholder,” arts blog for the Great Falls Tribune. ( In my opinion she has the most elegant logo in the newspaper of any I’ve seen, though it’s not the same as her banner. Maybe I don’t know what’s going on in other places either (like Missoula), but I have a half-century history with GF.

The comment I’ve reprinted below is not a response to a post by Joe Nickell, but rather by his fellow blogger, Jennifer Smith, inviting a report on the scene where the reader is. This is my report to her.


Montana is said to be a town with a main street 500 miles long. Another version of the same thing is that the arts here are a mile wide and about a quarter-of-an-inch deep. In short, in order to get enough critical mass to talk about the arts here, one must just about necessarily talk about the whole state at once.

Yet, the paradox is that visual art is very much Balkanized. The two university towns have their own little circles, the three or four mini-cities (Great Falls, Kalispell, Billings, Butte) and the two valley refuges of wealth and culture (Livingston and Hamilton), each have their own idea of what good art might be, their own icons, and their own aspirations.

What I know best is the sector called "Art of the American West," meaning "art that sorta reminds you of Charlie Russell." In a thinly populated state like this one, it is less represented by the few galleries and museums than it is by auctions (the one in Great Falls on Charlie's birthday in March or the Western Art Rendezvous in Helena in August) and magazines, especially "Southwest Art" and "Art of the West." Because Western art is often taken to be a record of history in the West (Remington and others came to notice by suppling art to go in newspapers before there were photographs) the Montana Historical Society magazine also serves, though at one time it came to notice that it had sunk to "pandering" to certain speculators and since has had a policy forbidding living artists. (This policy is not enforced in their museum.)

A strange ambivalent symbiosis connects Western art collectors in other more "high-rolling" places back east or in the Southwest and people who live in Montana. Partly the situation is that the collectors live in population centers where they make enough money to buy a little prestige-enhancement and the artists at least pretend to live in-country where the subject matter actually exists and the cost of living is a little lower.

But in Helena just a few blocks away from the Historical Society is the Holter Museum, contemporary, frisky, and willing to venture ideas about the future. They accept Native American art, but not "Cowboy" art. They are also much friendlier to contemporary writing and such phenomena as ceramics.

Across the state in Livingston is a genuine Renaissance man, Russell Chatham, son of a noted California impressionist. He has run a fine bistro, a publishing house, a gallery, a fine arts press, and so on -- while befriending the wild movie types who have bought ranches around there. He paints landscape in a romantic, atmospheric, yearning way that finances all his other interests and makes book covers so fabulous that I'm sure they've contributed to the success of Jim Harrison's novels. Missoula knows him as a man who attends the Montana Festival of the Book as a publisher. His art? Eh.

There is a Montana Arts Council, whose executive grew up on a grain farm outside Great Falls and who once worked for the Metropolitan Opera in NYC, and whose president (also female) is a Blackfeet Indian. They spend a lot of time thinking about money and hardly glance at "cowboy art." The past president (male) is an "art lawyer" who constantly tries to coach both artists and community about common sense business practices. Art law in the state is very weak, which encourages buccaneers.

I've been here, off and on, since 1961, and am still surprised by what turns up or turns around.

End of comment.

I’m going to take this discussion to my other blog, to clear the way for backed-up posts I want to make here, so you might want to migrate with the subject. I get incensed when people who purport to know all about “what’s on the ground” when they don’t, but one can hardly blame them if no one fills them in, especially when so much of what goes on in a place like Montana started to happen before they were born. It’s a circle -- they ignore us, so we ignore them. When it comes time to raise money -- ouch.
Posted by prairie mary at 3:54 PM 0 comments
Labels: arts
Sunday, July 08, 2007


This is from www.slog.the “The Stranger” is a Seattle newspaper, I assume an alternative paper, which I haven’t ever read.

Know Who I Like Reading?

Posted by Jen Graves on June 11 at 18:15 PM

Joe Nickell, the Missoulian writer who is part of a new blog on ArtsJournal called Flyover: Art from the American Outback. Nickell writes at the heart of his subjects (chiefly music), he’s mellifluous in print, and, in person, he has a hell of a way with old-timey shirts.

The blog is a group portrait of art in smaller cities by arts journalists of all kinds. It’s exactly the sort of thing I wish had been around (Nickell and co. invented it several months ago) when I was writing about art in Denton, Texas, and in Tacoma, where my boss once asked me whether the dancers at the ballet also sing while they’re performing.

These writers have tough jobs, jobs with high highs and low lows, jobs where cynicism is not an option. Read them. Throw in your comments.

Poor Joe Nickell, I read his blog for the first time through Arts Journal, which comes to me as an automatic daily newsfeed and which often points me to really useful stories. But, as is often the case when one expects one thing and gets another, I was upset because I thought that Joe would be writing about Montana arts, the whole state, but he sticks to Missoula. Missoula is NOT flyover country -- it’s a destination for global hipsters. What he’s picking up is the hem of Seattle, not the robes of the prairie.

But Joe’s only been there ten months and his specialty is music, so he must be forgiven for not understanding what the arts in Montana really are. He could start his research -- should he be interested -- by contacting Arlynn Fishbaugh, the executive for the Montana Arts Council. (Her background includes being staff for the Metropolitan Opera -- I haven’t asked her whether she has any “Bubbles” Sills stories.) But even Arlynn and the MAC have little consciousness of the 500 pound gorilla in this state, which is the legacy of Charlie Russell.

I jabbed Joe with a sharp stick in the comments for “Flyover Country” saying the Montana art world needs some REAL criticism, distinguishing good art from schlock. The response was not “ow” but “huh?” His assumption seems to be that he never writes about the annual March Russell Auction so therefore he never writes about art schlock. But he mistook me (and I did a bad job of commenting) because in my opinion and that of expert others, the auction often includes fine examples of American Impressionism which simply have Western subject matter. The point I was chasing is that most of the people who attend the auction and the complex of accompanying auctions where the schlock is most often found (the Russell auction itself is formally curated/juried) can only tell good art from bad by looking at the name of the artist and knowing how much money it is thought to be worth. (This is why bad art sells better if it’s priced high.)

That flashed past Joe like a pursued fox. But I regret using the term “schlock.” It means tawdry, inept, poorly done -- which is too much of a pejorative for a genre that has steadily improved and took a major leap with the newest influx: classically trained realistic painters from China. (They show regularly at the Western Art Rendezvous coming up in Helena. It’s really a kick to stand close enough to small groups of them to hear their chatting in Chinese. Can it be called eavesdropping if you can’t tell what they’re saying?) But even these fine artists, who make all the self-taught cowboy painters look desperate, are rather prone to “schmaltz,” which means over-sentimentality. The core of East Coast illustrators who galvanized the Cowboy Artists of America had the same combination of fine technical skill with a sort of sweet vignette sensibility drawn from the short stories they enlivened in slick magazines.

“What’s not to like?” many of my friends would ask. Well, I dunno. I have this sort of crazed romantic idea left over from my undergrad training in theatre: stuff about the heart of human meaning, a distinctive vision of the world, and all that.

Joe’s background sounds also romantic but more from a later generation than mine, the one that found their soul in music, oddly parallel but not the same as Bob Scriver’s “swing” generation. Bob’s kind of music got the soldiers through WWII. I think Joe must be from the Vietnam Era.

Those people don’t respond to sharp sticks, so I will try -- as here -- a little more courtship and networking. Part of my reaction to Joe is really about Missoula. On this side of the Rockies we see them as the home of snobbery, xenophobia, and fancy drugs. For the music freaks, it’s much closer to George, the fount of hip music. (The name is a play on the location in the Columbia Gorge. It’s an ampitheatre rather than a dive.)

The “pitch” for flyover country is that it is about the arts in “small cities,” but too many Montana small cities appear to be beneath notice here. Somebody send Joe Nickell some gas money.
Posted by prairie mary at 12:05 PM

Monday, May 28, 2007


The University of Calgary Press now shows this book in their on-line catalogue and is taking orders for September, 2007, delivery.

The photo shown in the catalogue is provisional and not the final cover. It shows Bob trimming the blank plaster of a baseball catcher, not his typical subject but a commission from the Mahre brothers. Instead of that one, I've posted a photo of Bob about to make the waste mold of the plastilene of his well-known bucking bull, "An Honest Try."

Bronze Inside and Out: A Biographical Memoir of Bob Scriver
By Mary Strachan Scriver

October 2007
ISBN 978-155238-227-1
6" x 9"
400 p.p.
B&W photographs
Legacies Shared No. 25
Biography, Art

About the Book
Bronze Inside and Out is a literary biography of sculptor Bob Scriver, written by his wife, Mary Strachan Scriver. Bob Scriver is best known for his work in bronze and for his pivotal role in the rise of “cowboy art.” Living and working on the Montana Blackfoot Reservation, Scriver created a bronze foundry, a museum, and a studio – an atelier based on classical methods, but with local Blackfoot artisans. His importance in the still-developing genre of “western art” cannot be overstated.

Mary Strachan Scriver lived and worked with Bob Scriver for over a decade and was instrumental in his rise to international acclaim. Working alongside her husband, she became intimately familiar with the man, his work, and his process. Her frank and uncensored narration includes details that give the reader a unique picture of Scriver both as man and as artist. Mary Strachan Scriver also provides a fascinating look into the practice of bronze casting, cleverly structuring the story of Bob Scriver’s life according to the steps in this complicated and temperamental process.

About the Author
Mary Strachan Scriver lives in Browning, Montana, where she has worked as a teacher, a writer, and a Unitarian minister.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

"MONTANA'S OWN" By Dave Crowell

Now and then I go scrounging around in my limited archives for something I only dimly remember. That’s what led me to a 1970 self-published book written by Dave Crowell. It’s basically a list of the Montana Western artists of the time, a catalog that presents a photo of their art, a photo of the artist, and a half-page or so of description. It didn’t include any of the academics, like Branson Stevenson or Rudi Autio, or any of the abstract artists. I have no memory of Dave Crowell at all, though I must have met him. In fact, Bob had just had his heart attack so I wrote the entry for him.

What impresses me is how few of these artists stayed in the biz or are still noted today. I count about 20. I googled every name and got no hits for 28 people. Ten have died, that I know of. A few have books of their own, either that they wrote or that someone else wrote about them.

What impresses me even more is that this simple little book is selling for as much as $375 dollars (see if it is signed by the author and includes a couple of original sketches by the illustrators. (Ron Bailey and Fred Fellows) This little book can sell for more money than some of these artists’ work at the time!

Here’s who’s in the book:

Bill Bailey Hungry Horse
Ron Bailey Hungry Horse
Tom Balazs Polson
Lou Blaskovich Butte
Sheryl Bodily Columbia Falls
Virginia Boegli Bozeman
Dan Bull Plume Glasgow
Bill Chapman Gardner
Clarence Cuts the Rope Hayes
Clay Connick Missoula
Fred Fellows Kalispell
Loren Dolln Butte
Bob Earhart Bigfork
James Flansburg Missoula
Bill Gebhart Conrad
Bob Hall Butte
Granville Hawley Hayes
James Haughey Billings
Bud Helbig Kalispell
Sandy Ingersoll Stevensville
Ron Jenkins Missoula
Andrew Jordan Choteau
King Kuka Missoula
Gordon Laridon Missoula
Betty Magner Great Falls
Marilynn Mason Missoula
Dutch Metesh Philipsburg
Darlene Morgan Bigfork
Bob Morgan Helena
Bill Ohrman Drummond
Merle Olson Bigfork
Hazel Ostrom Kalispell
Jack Olson Bozeman
Ace Powell Kalispell
Rex Rieke Helena
A.J. Richardson Great Falls
Tom Sander Kalispell
Bob Scriver Browning
John Segesman Cascade
Gary Schildt Hungry Horse
Steve Seltzer Great Falls
Tom Schenarts Missoula
Irvin Shope Helena
Elmer Sprunger Bigfork
Frankie Stratton Missoula
Les Welliver Kalispell
Bob Wood Kalispell
Geri Wood Kalispell

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


When I tackle the problem of defending Bob Scriver’s heritage, I’m really being self-serving. Not because I expect to make money or gain prestige (which is what some assume), but because I sank a dozen years of my life into the enterprise. We agreed that in all written materials he would be represented as a solitary entity, but the truth is that “Scriver Studio” and especially “Bighorn Foundry” were complexes that involved at least a dozen people, mostly Blackfeet plus me.

So when I walked into the part of the CM Russell Museum where their new gift of Scriver bronzes were on display, nicely placed on Navajo rugs and Metis sashes and interspersed with the Winold Reiss portraits of Blackfeet whom Bob knew personally, I was not surprised to see the grandmother or great-grandmother of the Cree Medicines among them. But I was upset that no connection was made to the Cree Medicine contribution to the Scriver oeuvre. Carl Cree Medicine and I were the most consistent members of Bob’s crew in the Sixties -- we learned bronze-casting together -- and Carl’s son David was the foreman of the Bighorn Foundry and Scriver Studio in recent years. In fact, in 2000 it was David who patiently showed the Montana Historical Society how to pack bronzes for safe transport to Helena. They didn’t know how: they are paper-pushers.

Loving Bob Scriver meant loving three intertwined things: Bob and his work (one and the same), the Blackfeet, and the land itself. My adult life has been shaped by these three things.

So it breaks my heart when the connections are unknown, broken, and disregarded. These bronzes came from a white man who acquired them for speculation, who moved away as soon as he had enough money, and who is not what one would call an “Indian lover.” They have had their community relationships stripped from them.

I’ve been keeping a master list of all the Scriver sculptures I know about, since the MHS is doing so little with their huge acquisition, so I went to the CMR Museum in part to add those pieces to my list. ($7 for senior citizens now.) But the receptionist said I was not to take a pen or pencil into the galleries. I had planned to slip in and out anonymously, which I do every now and then. But I lost my temper, told her who I was, why I was there and a few other things besides.

It would not have mattered except that my arrival happened to coincide with a special prestigious luncheon laid on for the volunteers and patrons. My voice went high and loud enough for even the little old ladies to pay attention. Security guards appeared out of nowhere -- about four of them.

Having vented, I calmed down and went to the gallery to make my list. Then, bless her heart, here came Anne Morand to see what was the matter. At last she was looking at me and seeing me. When she first came to Montana, I had sent her a welcoming email. When there was no response, I made it a point to go down and introduce myself in person. She was pretty busy. I’ve tried to sell my little homemade books about Bob Scriver in their gift shop but the manager wouldn’t even come out of her office. The embarrassed clerk said they didn’t want anything I had. I’ve said good things about Anne in my blog -- I so much want her to succeed in a really tough job. But I could never get her attention. NOW I may have it. She said she’d get back to me. We’ll see.

As time goes on, the field of Western art has grown more and more complex and is competitive to the point of being cut throat. The field is not one thing, but a cluster of styles and subject matters, some historic (which is why the MHS thinks it should have art dealing with the West), some commercial art converted to cowboy subject matter, some fine and famous landscape artists (Moran, Bierstadt), some Taos Seven artists who portrayed Indians, and a lot of self-taught people who have roots deep in the West. There are sharp feelings among those folks -- one sub-group against another or individuals at odds -- especially now that the CAA is into its fifth generation or so and the founders, most importantly, the patriarch and peace-maker Joe Beeler, are dead of old age.

But the real trouble is with the circle of coyotes around the artists, the dealers, speculators and sometimes curators who make their living by buying low and selling high. There are many dubious ways of pushing prices down or up. Art law in Montana is almost nonexistent, so outsiders think it’s the frontier. One sculptor had work in a west side Montana gallery where it didn’t sell after two years of exposure. Or so he thought. When he asked for the work back, it turned out that the pieces HAD sold but the gallery refused to send his money until he brought a lawyer to bear. Luckily, ordinary commercial law was relevant, as it was in the scandalous Steve Seltzer case, but paying a lawyer cut into the profits. That kind of constant chiseling is not unusual.

More than that, there’s a certain amount of price-fixing, colluding, and other funny business behind the scenes that justify the paranoia of artists. One little strategy is to place a collection of art work by some artist in the galleries of a museum, either by gifting it or just offering to loan it. The museum does all the work of setting up a flattering display and curating it as significant. This reassures prospective customers that the art is worthy of high prices, certified by a “public,” semi-academic institution. In truth, many museum directors know little or nothing about art except biography, genre and mediums.

How to recognize “speculator bronzes:”

1. High numbers of castings in the edition. The most elite dealers won’t look at any edition bigger than 24.
2. Many small bronzes on popular familiar subjects (often suggested by the dealer).
3. Bronzes the copyright of which is owned by someone other than the artist. (I had major arguments with Bob over this. He wanted to get rid of the trouble of records. So far, the MHS has not released the provenance records of the copyrights and sales of bronzes for which he kept copyrights. This is to the benefit of speculators.)
4. Casting not under the direct supervision of the sculptor, esp if it’s sold by the foundry itself.
5. Bronzes that constantly circulate among auctions, which proliferate more and more. There are several websites that monitor this action, plus other information. ( is the one I watch most.)
6. Bronzes that other artists and some dealers disparage. When a real masterpiece comes over the horizon, few argue.

In Bob’s case, after his major stroke in 1988, few of his bronzes reached the same level of competence as his work in the late Fifties, through the Sixties, and the early Seventies. The ill-advised “Christ the Teacher” is a good example of seriously strange work. There is a casting of it in this CMRussell gifted collection. You’ll see what I mean. But there are a few others of high quality, too. Look carefully at each piece.

These are the Cree Medicines, Carl and Carma to the left and David and Rosemary to the right. Carl and David look quite a bit like "Old Lady" Cree Medicine. They are in the CM Russell Museum on the occasion of Bob Scriver being given the Governor's award years ago.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


AT WWW.RAISONEE.BLOGSPOT.COM I've started a list of all the Scriver sculptures I know about and am posting whatever it is that I know. I'll try to keep it in chronological order.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


According to, there is now a bronze of this Scriver portrait of Teddy Roosevelt available on one of the auctions. I thought it might be interesting to look at the main sculpture commissioned by Boone and Crockett for their ranch on the east slope of the Rockies. To access the ranch, one must go up a dirt road from Dupuyer, Montana. The bronze is out in a field and is not large. It's best to stop at the headquarters to ask for directions.

Boone & Crockett is one of a series of nature education centers along this side of the Rockies as well as a working ranch. The location was in the news a few years ago when a grizzly sow with two yearling cubs was accidentally shot in the face by hunters who blundered onto her bedding spot. (They were not ON but NEAR the ranch.) For quite a while she wandered with her cubs, confused and dislocated. Finally, Mike Madel -- the "bear guy" -- managed to trap them and wrap their container up in tarps and straw to trigger hibernation. In spring they were released. One cub was killed and eaten by a boar grizzly. The others have returned to their previous range and habits. This gives an idea of the remoteness of this location.

Since I grew up in Portland, Oregon, I knew well the Proctor portrait of Teddy Roosevelt, heroic sized, that stands in front of the Portland Art Museum downtown on the Park Blocks. When Bob and I were married, we took a tour of all the Beaux Arts style monumental bronzes in the city -- there are quite a few -- and we lingered the longest at Teddy Roosevelt.