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."


Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Today would have been Bob Scriver’s 98th birthday.  There was never any expectation that he would live this long, but many thought his work might.  I watch his sculpture revolve through the auctions that are the life of Western cowboy art now.  The small later work is beginning to be joined by his earlier careful sculptures meant to be monuments in the Beau Arts mode.  The people who bought them are dying now and their heirs are cashing them in.  This means that prices have dropped.

I haven’t followed the Cowboy Artists of America, who were mostly painters anyway.  But I tabbed Harry Jackson at and the two sculptors generally go to auction side-by-side, though Harry never produced the many smaller “collectibles” that Bob’s entrepreneurs cast and sold.  His inheritors put a LOT of work on the market in a hurry.  Some people, who can barely tell a cow from a horse, are not able to see differences between Harry and Bob.  Certainly they were personally much alike and very fond of each other.

No significant critic of Western art as it existed in the last century has emerged.  Those who are qualified are as old as the artists.  They stick to the three R's:  Russell, Remington and Rungius.  Academics find the subject unworthy, except to attack as childish and just plain wrong.

The pendulum will swing the other way.  I have no idea when.  Probably not in time for a centennial of the birth of Bob Scriver.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


From the Great Falls Tribune, May 27, 2012

Old Fort Benton opens Bourgeois House, Starr Gallery

Written by

The Bourgeois House at the fort in Fort Benton houses the Starr Gallery. TRIBUNE PHOTO/LARRY BECKNER Fay Todd, left, talks about a Bob Scriver bronze sculpture with Jeffrey Alpizar in the Starr Gallery at the Bourgeois House in Fort Benton Saturday. TRIBUNE PHOTO/LARRY BECKNER
In late May 1855, Andrew Dawson, the American Fur Company's chief trader at Fort Benton, wrote in his daily log, "cloudy, rainy, disagreeable day."
On the next day Dawson wrote, "fort full of water."
The next, "another rainy day."
And then on May 26, exactly 157 years before the River and Plains Society dedicated the newest addition to the old Fort Benton museum complex, Dawson wrote, "more showers."
The assembled audience chuckled as River and Plains Society Board Member Randy Morger read from the old logs. Outside, a drizzling rain neatly echoed Dawson's observations from a century and a half ago.
Some things never change.
Inside too, little seemed to have changed from the fur trading days. Trade blankets and powder horns lined the shelves at the trade store. A buffalo head kept watch over the assembled audience, staring out from above a cracking fire in the adobe fireplace.
After the dignitaries had given their speeches, and rounds of heart-felt applause had been showered upon the many people who made the dedication possible, the audience was invited to step out into the rain, cross the inner courtyard and enter old fort's newest addition.
After more than 15 years of planning, preparation and finally construction, the Bourgeois House and the Starr Gallery of Western Art are at last completed. Saturday marked their grand opening.
Standing on the exact site from which the American Fur Company once operated a vast frontier trading empire, the Bourgeois House and Starr Gallery are certain to delight anyone with an interest in authentic western history and and appreciation for rare western art.
"Come on in and see what we have to offer," said River and Plains trustee Jack Lepley as he invited the crowd in.
The Bourgeois House is a faithful recreation of the office, living quarters and council room of the Bourgeois, the title given to the chief trader at each of the American Fur Company's trading posts. And contained within this important structural tribute to Montana's past is another, equally impressive treasure — the Starr Gallery of Western Art.
For its inaugural exhibit, the Starr Gallery is featuring 18 sculptures by famed Montana artist Bob Scriver, rare Karl Bodmer prints contributed by the Starr Foundation, and John Mix Stanley's original portrait of Alexander Culbertson, founder of Fort Benton in 1846.
"Authenticity, culture and history — what better place than Fort Benton to find that?" asked Pam Gosink from the Montana Office of Tourism. "Congratulations on a job well done."

Thursday, May 24, 2012


From the Great Falls Tribune,  May 23, 2012

These are the bronzes that were held in Edmonton at the Royal Alberta Museum.

Historical addition, museum to open in Fort Benton

This small Scriver bronze entitled "No More Buffalo" is the namesake sculpture of a 53 piece series that will be displayed at the Starr Gallery of Western Art over the next several years. PHOTO COURTESY OF RIVER AND PLAINS SOCIETY

The Bourgeois House and the Starr Gallery of Western Art will be dedicated during a public ceremony in Fort Benton at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 26. Admission is free to the public, who also can visit all other Fort Benton museums and historic landmarks that day for free, all courtesy of the River and Plains Society, which oversees the fort's restoration.
Funding for the reconstruction of the Bourgeois House and the Starr Gallery was provided by the Montana Office of Tourism's Tourism Infrastructure Investment Program, Fay Todd and family and the Starr Foundation.

Fort Benton "saw more romance, tragedy and vigorous life than many a city a hundred times its size and ten times its age" wrote historian Hiram Chittenden in his 1903 book on the Missouri River steamboat era.
The fur trappers, Native Americans, river boats, buffalo hunters, gold miners and whiskey traders who made Fort Benton a center of commerce and culture in the Rocky Mountain West have long ago faded from living memory. But next Saturday, May 26, a new addition to the museum complex at old Fort Benton will be dedicated, faithfully restoring some of the sights and imagery of what was once the innermost port in the world.
The public is invited to attend opening ceremonies for the Bourgeois House, a historical re-creation of what served as the headquarters and living area for the American Fur Company's chief trader at the remote Montana Territory outpost.
"That's what the American Fur Company called the chief traders at all their forts — the Bourgeois," explained Sharalee Smith, director of the River and Plains Society Fort Restoration Committee.
Built from brick modeled on artifacts preserved from the original 1850s adobe fort, the Bourgeois House is the first structure to be added to the Old Fort's re-creation in 10 years.
"When we first started out back in 1995, we built the trade store and then the warehouse and the blacksmith's/carpenter's shop," said Smith.
The old fort also includes the original 1847 blockhouse, the oldest building in Montana still on its original foundation. According to Smith, the original two-story Bourgeois House was designed to impress upon its visitors the wealth and prestige of the American Fur Company.
"The far left of the building's ground floor was the Bourgeois' office," she said. "The remaining two-thirds of the ground floor was a huge room they called 'The Council Room.' When Indian chiefs and other important people would visit, that's where the American Fur Company officials would entertain them.
"Upstairs, going up the fancy porch, was the Bourgeois' living quarters. Then the other rooms going down the other two-thirds of the upper story were apartments for the clerks. The educated guys got to live in nice little apartments, each with their own doorway."
While the re-creations of the Bourgeois' office and living quarters are impressive in their own right, the Bourgeois House is far more than simply an interpretive center for a bygone fur trading post. Also on the main floor of the Bourgeois House is the new Starr Gallery of Western Art. The inaugural exhibition for this important addition to Montana's cultural legacy is called "The Land, The People, The Artists' Vision."
Headlining the new exhibit are 18 statues by Bob Scriver. Cast during a 20-year period beginning in 1959, the "No More Buffalo" series represents some of the Montana sculptor's most important work.
According to a 1998 interview with Scriver by the Los Angeles Times, in 1959 the chairman of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council asked Scriver to create 12 statues illustrating tribal culture. The challenge prompted him to fashion 53 statues in bronze, plaster or fiberglass depicting 1,200 years of Blackfeet history. The Provincial Museum for Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, stored the works for more than a decade, and they have rarely been displayed publicly.
"The whole collection was returned to the Montana State Historical Society last fall," explained Smith. "Some of these statues are huge and weigh well over 700 pounds."
Over the coming years, the Starr Gallery intends to rotate through the remaining pieces of the "No More Buffalo" collection, eventually displaying all 53 works in the series.
Also on display starting Saturday will be a collection of rare Karl Bodmer prints detailing Montana's scenery and Indian cultures of the 1830s, and an original portrait of Fort Benton's founder, Alexander Culbertson, likely painted in the 1870s by western artist John Mix Stanley.
"The Stanley portrait is the only original work by that famous western painter known to exist in Montana," said John G. Lepley, executive director and curator for the River and Plains Society. "And the prints from Swiss painter Bodmer's travels with Prince Maximilian to the interior of North America still stand today as the most accurate and detailed pictures of Native American life during that era."

Tuesday, March 06, 2012



Around here the surest sign of spring is not the groundhog but rather the birthday of an old cowboy artist namedCharlie Russell who created a archetype while meaning only to live in the West. The Great Falls Ad Club decided to organize a celebratory art auction on the weekend closest to his birthday every year and that proved to be a magnet for a number of intersecting forces. In the immediately past years the forces have collided and reconfigured. Now there is an auction, but the Ad Club has nothing to do with it, while the “shadow” auction called “March in Montana” continues unchanged. You can peruse the offerings of both online: and Jay Contway

is also continuing his simultaneous show (Jay Contway & Friends) but doesn’t put a catalog online.

Lots of people speculate about what’s happening, especially behind the scenes where the CM Russell Museum has just united their two Boards of Directors, one local and one national. All the drama of horse rustling and backroom gambling deals! Of course, buying art IS gambling, esp. at an auction. Bob Scriver has been completely eliminated from the remuda of the Russell. Previous directors would have liked to get his little skulls off the door pulls and even dispense with the big portrait of the artist that Scriver made. He afflicted them while alive and bugs them even more now that he’s dead. I try to help.

There are Scriver bronzes in the “March in Montana” auction, the smaller ceramic-shell castings he made late in life to sell through entrepreneurs who were fond of series so as to encourage collecting the whole bunch. These pieces are # 322, a bucking horse at rodeo; #223, a standing mountain man; #324, a trapper on showshoes; #325, a prospector panning; #594, a mountain man on horseback; #617, a standing elk. This last might be the one sold to help acquire the painting of an elk that Charlie made for the Elks Club so it would stay in Montana. #489, an Indian woman on a horse with a travois, children, and two dogs, is identified as a Joe Beeler bronze but I think it’s actually a Scriver. As the staff gets younger and more separated from on-the-ground Western life, they make more mistakes.

Of the works by people I knew and liked who were connected to Bob Scriver, there were fewer than usual works, but some persist. Ned Jacob has a nice little sketch (#333) of an Indian head with a bandanna. Paul Dyck is represented by two remarkable paintings: #342, a circle of lodges (tipis) and #342, some kind of ceremonial bird. He is an abstract painter using classical techniques, very haunting. If I had money to spend, I might buy #415 which is a Russell Chatham stone lithograph, also haunting.

Ned Jacob is my age, but Russell Chatham was born on the very same day. We are an age cohort and over seventy now. When I came to Browning we were the younglings. Ace Powell, alcoholic and garrulous, energized us with his predictions of the future and he is well represented in the March in Montana auction becauseVan Kirke Nelson took him -- well, under his wing would be the nice way to put it -- and accumulated a LOT of his work. But there really are not a lot of Montana homegrown artists that I recognize.

There are two categories of objects that should be thoroughly researched before bidding. One is the Native American artifacts which are controversial in terms of politics and very often were stolen at some point between their creation and acquisition. In addition, many artifakes are out there and some of them are so well-done that they are nearly undetectable as phony. Of course, if they’re that good, why worry? Why not just accept them?

The concept of pedigree is not well-known but it is relevant to artifacts and also to bronzes. With modern methods and materials, it is probably easier to make an undetectable but unauthorized phony bronze casting than to make a solidly-beaded vest. In fact, some of the glamorous ceremonial shirts that occasionally come through auctions sell for thousands, more than many bronzes. Originally, back in the days of Rodin and the perfecting of lost wax casting the process was so exacting and risky that Bob and I nearly killed ourselves and our crew in the Sixties learning how to do it. Now you can just buy a low-risk kit for ceramic shell casting. There’s a definite difference in the quality, but most people can’t detect it.

Western art is an interesting category because it combines high, sophisticated works attached to high income crowds in erudite circles, very curated and controlled, with wild-ass popular creations done from the heart for personal satisfaction. Then there are the cross-overs, which would be Charlie Russell from a relatively high-toned bourgeois family in the mid-west who barely managed to catch the tail of the big open range life. In fact, he missed the bison and the pre-rez Indians. He did his best for the Metis/Cree-Chippewa people who had no rez and often visited the reservations. Some of his drawings are sharp social criticism.

Now it begins to be realized that he was considerably more sophisticated in technique than people think. He spent time in New York City, learning, and artists from back east came to visit, bringing their advice and techniques with them. The same happened with Bob Scriver. So now there are two directions of influence traveling between the “grassroots” spontaneous art and the sophisticated circles. Maybe it’s time for another book that isn’t focused on how much money can be made.

In the meantime interested parties should at least educate their eyes on the catalogues of auctions and, if possible, look carefully at the original works with as much coaching as they can glean from publications or from websites which manages an index of artists and information about them.

For a reality check, here’s a blog about the planetary art world: