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."


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Review of "Bronze Inside and Out"

BRONZE INSIDE AND OUT Review from “Alberta History”, Summer, 2008

Mary Scriver loves to write and she has chosen an ideal topic -- Bob Scriver, her late husband, a sculptor of international fame. A resident of Browning, Montana, he is particularly remembered for his bronzes of Indians, rodeo cowboys, and prominent figures, and prominent figures. Included among them is a 53 piece series of bronzes of Blackfoot culture entitled “No More Buffalo,” a 33 piece set entitled “Rodeo in Bronze,” and individual figures such as Eric Harvie of Calgary’s Glenbow Museum, rodeo star Casey Tibbs, “Buffalo Bill” Cody, Teddy Roosevelt, and others.

In this book, Mary also tells her own story, of how she came to Browning and her experiences with the Blackfoot people. She met her husband there and tells of his life and accomplishments in an engaging and literary style.

Bob was born on the Blackfeet Reservation in 1914 where his father owned a store. After a stint at teaching, he opened a taxidermy shop which grew into a foundry for his sculptures. As one who grew up with the Blackfoot, he had a keen interest in their cultures, and participated with them in their ceremonies. His love for them is reflected in his many sculptures. He also collected many artifacts, as had his father, to preserve a disappearing culture.

In 1990 he became the centre of controversy when he feared his entire Indian collection would be seized from under a newly-passed “Repatriation of Indian Artifacts Act.” To prevent this from happening, he took his collection to Canada and sold it to the Provincial Museum of Alberta for $1 million.

This whole story of Bob Scriver is a fascinating one, and a good read.


I’m suspecting that this casting (above) was made in the Sixties in our own Bighorn Foundry that we built in the backyard and that probably either Carl Cree Medicine or I patined it.

The early auctions began, rather transparently, as ways to clear out the warehoused art stock of certain persons under the guise of helping the CMR Museum or Indians or some other cause. When they came around to ask Bob to donate a piece of art, he was outraged. (“I’m broke already!!”) But one was frozen out of the buyer “social classes” if one didn’t, because the auction was also an important bonding event for collectors and their supplicants. So he invented the Scriver Buffalo Skull Award, which didn’t cost much to cast and wasn’t going to be affected by the general state of art sales.

Now, of course, everything has changed, but Bob was right to be wary of auctions, because now there are many auctions, the generation that was betting on which artist was going to be the next Charlie Russell is ancient or dead, and there is a Charlie Russell wannabe under every bush, painting away as fast as they can. Aside from that, works go through auctions back east where people know nothing but abstract expressionism or conceptual art and no one knows anything about Charlie -- they have a vague trace memory of Frederic Remington.

In some ways, bronze sculptures have become as much victims of technology as books have been undercut by electronics. Ceramic shell casting is so cheap and easy, with results that are so indistinguishable from fine lost wax casting (except by experts), that everyone casts everything, slaps a store-bought slick-as-plastic patina on it (maybe in COLORS !!), and sells it for trinket prices. Worse, they aren’t very particular what they make molds off of -- copyright or not -- and they aren’t particularly good at making molds.

It gets worse: with laser technology, you can stand a horse in front of a machine and have a computer-recorded exact replica of the horse without the intervention of human judgment at all. Is this art? Is an upside-down urinal art? It’s up to the buyer.

Personally, I think it is worse to have a monument-quality sculpture cast by the artist by the same lost-wax method that Rodin used, go at auction for $800. And worse than that, I resent the work being carelessly described by some racist shallow catalogue maker as a “buck, squaw and papoose.” These are portraits. Chewing Black Bone, the man sitting down, was a dignified ceremonialist, said by some to be the last warrior to have taken a scalp. He was blind, probably from trachoma. In summer he lived in his lodge on the Mad Plume ranch, mending his own moccasins and remembering the old days. He was a friend and informant of James Willard Schultz, who called him “Ahku Pitsu.” I only met him once, early in the Sixties.

Mae Williamson, the woman in the middle, was a dignified and sophisticated woman who was married to a white lawyer. (Later she had other husbands, all Blackfeet.) The dress she is wearing, embellished with the eyeteeth of elk (count’em and see how many elk it took), is worth thousands of dollars. The boy is “tomorrow.” We’ve lost the name of the boy who posed. Maybe he’ll see this, recognize himself, and tell us how he turned out. He’d be a grandfather by now, fifty years older. None of this is romantic foofoo stuff invented by a Hollywood-hypnotized story spinner. These are just facts.

I complain a good deal about the Industrial Cowboy Art Cartel, who try to lock up the value of their own acquisitions by whatever means they can. Wheelin’ and dealin’, we say. These new phenomena of slice ‘n dice, bring-’em-faster auctions in which the buyers are often not present (they buy via the internet), no informed persons explain what the context of the pieces are, and everyone is monitoring a ticker-tape website that shows what the artist’s work sold for last time, are incredibly destructive to the reputation and value of Western American art.

But at least it is not the racist divide that is presently between those who love Western art, Western literature, and Western history because it is essentially a conquerer’s account of the empire of America with a nod to the valor and glamour of the “worthy opponents” -- as opposed to the flipside: real people’s history of previously invisible kinds. (Example: Mian Situ who suddenly makes real the Chinese in the West.) This divide is in all three contexts and it is decimating the organizations devoted to the fields, especially those that include with the amateur aficionadoes some serious academics who have been alert to the re-framing of history by people like Howard Zinn. Young people are now quite different in outlook and opposed to exploitation. It may be that the buckskinners and cavalry re-enactors have smudges of fascistic elitism and triumphalism. The idea makes them so defensive that no one wants to go near the topic.

Right-wingers. God love ‘em. Bob Scriver was among ‘em. Not that the forces of Red Power didn’t do their best to change him from an innocent to an entrenched opponent. This man grew up thinking he WAS Indian and got pushed out of the category by Indian people who hated the FBI -- who did their best to reinforce hate, even though the FBI was organized in the first place to oppose the many murders that came out of the great early oil strikes in Kansas. Wounded Knee was Wounded Pride. So the foxes sit quietly in front of the hen house with their tails curled around their feet while the weasels come and go.

I’m not meaning to accuse the amateur aficionadoes, who are off creating sonnets that ask “Why Gone Those Times?” I’m not ignoring the young rascals who say, “Good riddance.” It’s the commodifiers I’m after. In the meantime, sales everywhere are really miserable.




Bob Scriver was born in 1914, approximately at the beginning of WWI, so 2014 will be the centennial year of his birth.  I want to mark it somehow and what is within my powers is a “book,” maybe a hundred pages long, 8 1/2” by 11”, with content that people will actually read.  At this point Bob’s peers are mostly dead, though he really began his sculpture career about twenty years late, so in that sense there are a few left.  The truth is that most people now have little or no consciousness of him and -- worse than that -- most people really don’t give a damn except to want to know how much his work is worth.  They cannot grasp that all art is only worth what people are willing to pay for it, which varies greatly over time and place.  In fact, almost everything varies in value according to circumstances.

In this post I'm speculating on what I might include in this projected “book,” which will be little more than a long magazine article.  If people want to read an exhaustive account of Bob’s life, context, and place in history, they should read “Bronze Inside and Out: a Biographical Memoir of Bob Scriver,” published by the U of Calgary Press, available online.  No bookstores carry it, not even the Montana Historical Society which owns Bob’s estate.

In Montana everything is dominated by the pattern of Charlie Russell -- even the reality of the man himself is obliterated by the legendary template and attempts to differ from it will be quickly suppressed.  Bob Scriver was a sculptor, which means that from the very beginning the story must be different.  Both men constantly worked bits of malleable material -- wax, plastilene, river bank clay, whatever.  It’s the art medium of cast bronze that defines Scriver far more than Russell.
Bust of Washington by Houdon

About the time of the founding of the United States of America, all fine sculpture was cut from white marble by Italians.  When it was time to commemorate Washington and so on, Houdon, a Frenchman, had to be imported to make the figures and then they were cut in Italy, shipped back to the US.  So strong was the influence that Washington was depicted in a toga.  (Here on the high prairie the horse had just arrived.)

by Barye, Animalier

Then about the time of the American Civil War, bronze had replaced marble.  I should look all this up, but I’m sketching here.  It’s just a guide -- YOU look it up!  The ability to make finally detailed bronze sculptures, much less fragile than marble, made possible theAnimaliers and Rodin.  If you watch the set dressing on BBC shows like Downton Abbey, you see a lot of small bronze objects, especially on desks. To show sophistication, many are depictions of Romans with rearing horses.  Those are probably "pot metal," a lesser alloy.  (By this time the buffalo were being eliminated and the prairies were being cleared of Indians. Charlie arrives in Montana.)

by Saint Gaudens

The next war is WWI and metal is converted to armaments.  Blackfeet become soldiers.  A small boy is born in Browning, a second son named Robert.  By the time the war ends and recovery is underway, he is old enough to read and spends time sprawled out with the newspaper which comes with one page of local news and three pages printed en masse somewhere else.  Favorite stories feature the new monuments to heroism created by sculptors educated in Paris, esp. at the Ecole de Beaux Arts. Nowadays not many of us know the names of the sculptors, but we recognize their work because in heroic-sized monuments it has stood in parks a long time.  Usually they are men on horses.  These works are the ones to whom Bob Scriver aspired.  His natural home is not Cowboy Artists of America, but rather the National Sculpture Society founded by the Beaux Arts representational bronze sculptors.  This creates a problem, a split in potential appreciators, since the subject matter goes one way and the art medium goes another.

Bighorn Foundry

Bronze is also problematic because the cost of production, both in terms of exertion and capital, is far higher than for a painting.  Bob became convinced early on that one way to survive was to be his own foundry, his own gallery, and -- of course -- his own and only artist.  So we learned to cast “Roman block lost wax” sculptures that demanded great technical expertise, a certain amount of danger. and intense energy.  

This was in the early Sixties, just as the Space Age began.  The technology of creating metal parts made huge jumps, not least the invention of ceramic shell casting.  It was as though the printing press had been replaced by computer printers: a steep drop in the cost and expertise of production.  People could cast bronze replicas of their children’s creations in their own backyards.  Most people cannot tell much about quality in almost every humanities pursuit: painting, sculpture, writing, dance, music.  The schools don’t teach the principles.  The media only wants to know what will sell and that means quick, dirty and preferably shocking.
"Transition" by Bob Scriver

Art is like religion (in the sense of systems of thought that support meaning and a sense of significance) in that it has to be present but not necessarily available to conscious reflection, but when the culture is wealthy in time and money, it is much more conscious and explored which makes the value go up.  But the money has to be seen as a means rather than an end.  So when the Blackfeet were flush with oil money the first time (there’s a little echo these days with frakking) they laid out a promenade of monuments.  It was never built, but this is the impetus for Bob’s first significant meant-to-be-monument works. “Transition,” “No More Buffalo,” “Return of the Blackfeet Raiders,” “Real Meat,” were worked out with the advice of Iliff McKay and Blackie Wetzel, leaders at the time.

The Scriver Museum of Montana Wildlife in winter when saddles were stored there.

Parallel to the development of these works was a path also followed byEarl Heikka, going along with Charlie:  “modeling” rather than sculpture, meaning one-of-a-kind, nostalgic, colored, full of detail meant to be accurate, near-dioramas.  Gordon Monroe has picked up this genre.  For Bob this was braided together with his taxidermy career, which bridged him over from his first career as a musician, his love of hunting, and his admiration of the world class dioramas presenting mounted animals in the major natural history museums, like the Field Museum in Chicago where he went to school as a young man.  His notion of a personal collection justified by usefulness to animal artists drew him into the newly formed Society of Animal Artists.
"An Honest Try" by Bob Scriver

The climax of Bob’s career was probably the rodeo series, though a case could be made for the Lewis and Clark monuments.  The rodeo pieces hinged on the commission for a portrait of Bill Linderman in what was then the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City.  It came about because of rodeo hands who had worked for Bob pulling him into the contest just before it closed. 

There is another strand, much more private and often misunderstood.  A commission for a “corpus,” the body of Jesus the Christ on the cross, coincided with the cancer death of his daughter and renewed connection to his brother and sister-in-law from his second marriage.  (The daughter was from a first marriage.)  Her bust, the busts of Maurice Chaillot, the model for the corpus, and then of HelĂ©ne DeVicq when both posed for a Pieta, form a little cluster that has little to do with Christianity, but everything to do with grief.  It met a dead end in a statue of Jesus big enough to enter and go up into on stairs.  Never built.

There are hundreds more sculptures, some just for fun, some for money, and so on.  Just making a list of them is an on-going task.  I try to keep track on but new pieces show up all the time.  What are they worth?  How much do you want them?

Saturday, August 17, 2013


This message came from an owner of Scriver bronzes who was robbed.  I post it here so that people can watch for the particular bronzes and also keep their guard up.  If you spot one of these bronzes, you could contact me and I’ll let the owner know.

On Monday July 29, 2013 my home was robbed during the day.  One of the items that was taken was the miniature bronze of the Explorers of the Portage -- #579 of 1000.  It was given to my son as a gift from his late great-great aunt.  

I live approximately 13 miles north of Great Falls in a rural farming community.  I’ve been keeping an eye out on craigslist and ebay, and I have contacted all pawn shops in Great Falls, Havre, Helena and Lewistown, as well as any antique/collectible type stores in Great Falls.  I have also contacted all of our local galleries.

Along with this bronze, they also took a Heikka “Wapiti” #3 of 100 and three Terry Mimnaugh “Boy Scout Law” bronzes, one was #14 of 100 and the other two were #15 of 100. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


"To Take a Scalp" by Bob Scriver

These photos were kindly sent to me by Adam R. Brice.  The bronze is part of his own collection.

I see that the piece has the "real" Scriver patina, which is a deep green with variations in it.  We learned to patine like that by imitating the French Animaliers.  In fact, Bob bought a Barye bronze of a big cat taking down a gazelle so we could study it.  The animaliers and Rodin were the early developers of the art of bronze casting in Paris when the fashion moved away from Italian marble -- all those white statues.

I wasn't with Bob when he made this piece, but he talked about it.  There was contention among the old timers about which one of them was the last to take a scalp.  Both or maybe three claimed that as teenagers they accompanied war parties and took a scalp, but were so repelled by it that they never did it again.  The problem with such boasts is that it puts the guy on the line between being a potent warrior and being a law-breaker who would be punished by whites or at least a savage.    Bob tried to imagine what it would really be like and this piece resulted.  He did have a few real scalps in his artifact collection, but was hazy (strategically) about where they came from.

Friday, March 15, 2013


“March in Montana”, one of the Great Falls auctions that hitchhikes on the major auction in celebration of Charlie Russell’s birthday, is “featuring” sculptures by Bob Scriver and Earle Heikka.  There are points of similarity between the two men and also significant points of difference.  Heikka and Scriver both had backgrounds in taxidermy at museum levels where dioramas are the goal.  Both are local, Heikka born in Belt and Scriver born in Browning.  Heikka (1910 - 1941) was older than Scriver and committed suicide while Scriver was in the service in Edmonton, before the latter began serious sculpture.  They were not acquainted.  Both men did Western genre subjects: pack trains, cowboys and Indians, and stagecoaches, but Scriver’s work included many other subjects including portraits and a small group of religious works.  He's best compared to the French school of Beaux Arts sculptors who created many of our familiar monuments: men like Fraser, Procter, Saint Gaudens, and so on.

Heikka worked in a very difficult medium, “Marblex,”something like paper mache which cracked badly when it dried.  It required much patience to master and didn’t receive or hold detail very well.  As far as I know, Heikka didn’t cast them in bronze during his lifetime.  His pieces were one-of-a-kind, hand-painted.

In contrast, Scriver worked in plastilene, was a master mold maker, and built his own foundry, the Bighorn Foundry, in order to have total control.  The bronzes cast in those days were silicon bronze using the Roman block method and had a very specific patina meant to be like those of the Animaliers cast in Paris in the 19th century.  They were numbered in small editions, certificates were issued, and sales were recorded in a master book that appears to have gone missing since the Montana Historical Society, who received Scriver’s estate, can’t seem to locate it.  Possibly it was intercepted before the estate was moved.

In the early days Scriver cast in hydrocal, a very hard version of plaster, and he kept a key casting of each piece in case something happened to the mold.  (Since metal shrinks when it is cast, molds made from previous bronzes will be slightly smaller.)  It appears that one of the pieces in this auction is one of those key castings.  If the mold was made from black tufy cold molding compound, it would leave the piece discolored like this.  It's hard to know how to value something like this.  We used to set the price of hydrocals as one-tenth the price of the bronze, but if it were the mold key, it would be worth far more as a production basic.  It's not much to display and could easily be broken if struck or dropped.  It ought to have been destroyed at Bob's death.

Lone Cowboy, 1880.  Created in 1968, no edition numbers.  This specific piece was a companion to the original “Lone Cowboy” which was Bob’s trademark for many years.  It was also a “breakthrough” in a different way, the first of Bob’s work that was consciously designed.  It was the piece Warren Baumgartner, a master watercolorist from NYC, helped with in order to teach Bob composition.  Heikka never had the benefit of such lessons.

One of the most complex of these composed sculptures is “Real Meat”.  Created in 1964 , numbered 8.  Original certificate included.  The phrase is the original Blackfeet name for buffalo.  These animals are specific buffalo that Bob measured and studied at the Moiese National Bison Range.  The men were modeled by members of the Kicking Woman family and the horses are taken from Bob’s own horses.  This large piece is in a different scale, a different style, and a different composition from the Russell sculpture to which is it sometimes compared.
"The Hornaday group" is a famous remnant taxidermy group in the Smithsonian.  Since it was showing signs of age and needed some refurbishment, this bronze was created for sale to finance that work.  Inscribed "Special to Loran & Delores Perry" which means it was not numbered.
Other buffalo portraits include “Herd Bull” which is the study for the buffalo bull that once stood in the Scriver Museum of Montana Wildlife.  This is #5 of 110.  It claims to be cast by the Proctor family in the '70's.  I know nothing about that.  110 is a large edition.

The “breakthrough into bigtime" notice came with the large rodeo series that developed out of the commission from the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association to do an heroic-sized portrait of Bill Linderman.  The Calgary Stampede bought a complete set of these bronzes.  These pieces have only recently begun to show up in auctions.  

The most spectacular  and graceful is “Paywindow,” the bucking horse on one foot.  It is nearly balletic.  This is numbered 17 and was cast in the Bighorn Foundry, Bob's own.  Original certificate is with it.

"Not for Glory" is the pickup men, one taking off the rider and the other getting hold of the horse.  This is copy #2, cast in the Bighorn Foundry, Bob's own.  Original certificate included.
"Headin' for a Wreck" is the steer-wrestling event.  Those in the know would see that the cowboy's timing is just enough off to make trouble.  This is the #6 casting and was cast by Powell Bronze Foundry, which was run by Eddie Powell, Ace's oldest son.
Later there were smaller “cowboy” pieces.  This one is old-timey and uses Bob’s longhorn steer, “Tex.”  He called it "When Cutting Was Tough."  #55 of 110.  Arrowhead Bronze Foundry.  This foundry used ceramic shell casting.  The high numbers were common with Bob in the later years.  There is no "law" -- not even business law -- that controls the number of castings in an edition.  Severely limiting the number was a convention in the early days when molds lost detail in every casting.  It was a gentleman's agreement that Bob came to despise as bad business practice since modern molds don't lose detail.

Bob liked to work in groups around a subject.  The Lewis & Clark monument commissions for Great Falls and Fort Benton were financed by the sale of smaller castings, sometimes replicas and sometimes on the same theme.

"Captain Lewis & Our Dog Scannon"  turned out to be misnamed.  The dog's actual name was "Seaman."  Arrowhead casting.  The dog that posed for this Newfoundland dog was named "Windsor."  This is casting # 26 of 150.  The dog (and the slave York) actually belonged to Clark.

"Capt. Wm. Clark, Map Maker."  #26 of 150.  Arrowhead casting.  Actually, he's surveying here and will record numbers from which maps can be constructed.  Since this casting has the same number as the one just previous, they were probably sold together.

"Lewis, Clark & Sacajawea", #25 of 35, is a small version of the Fort Benton monument.  Actually Pompey is in it as well.   Created in 1974. The Certificate of Authenticity that comes with it is issued by the Lewis & Clark Memorial Committee.

This “set” is a series of “collectibles” on the theme of coffee, suggested by an entrepreneur.
Coffee Break Series: "Coffee Break," "Batwing Chaps," "Wells Fargo Cargo," "Bull Durham Cowboy" and "The Sheriff."  Set #141/250.  Arrowhead castings.

A few other individual old-timey pieces might be commissioned or just be inspired by reading or conversation.

"Salute to the Buffalo Robe" is inscribed "Special to Loran & Delores Perry" so is not numbered.  Created in 1995.  Commissioned to celebrate the 150 anniversary of the establishment of Fort Benton and includes a certificate of authenticity from the Fort Benton Committee as well as being inset with a Fort Benton 150th anniversary medallion.

 "Defending the Mail" created in 1989.  #27/150.  Arrowhead casting.

"1861 Mail (Pony Express)" Created in 1991.  #7 of 100.

"Montana Trapper." #96/100  Created 1976.  Arrowhead casting.
Of course, Scriver continued with the animal pieces.  This one revisits the idea of two bull elks fighting over a cow, but uses a different composition.

"To the Victor"  #54/75  Arrowhead casting.  Late in life Scriver's human figures seemed distorted sometimes, but his animals always kept their anatomical accuracy.  One could look at the high number sold of this piece as either damaging its value because it's not very scarce, or could see it as an indicator of popularity, which is always good for sales.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


This is a winter photo.  I can tell because a saddle is stored by suspension from the rafters.  The table on the left holds tracks of all the animals.  The plan was to cast them in bronze and inset them into the floor, but it never got done.  In front is a mountain sheep, Bob's favorite animal, and the white animal is a mountain goat.  In between, obscured by the mountain sheep, is an antelope.  All these animals were shot by Bob.  The exception is the cougar at the right which showed up in someone's woodshed.

This is a very small piece, only a few inches, a good one to keep on a desk.  The title is Enawaki or Buffalo Woman, the Real Mother and her child.  This is not meant to be a portrait, but iconic.

Here's Bob in later years in the backyard between the shop and the house.  The monumental bronze was cast in the Bighorn Foundry which is along the east side of the yard.  The foreman at the time was David Cree Medicine, son of Carl Cree Medicine who worked for Bob through the Sixties.

Bob Scriver and George Montgomery are looking at foot ware for Jesus who sits patiently at the left.  George used his contacts with the Hollywood costumers to bring in some properly researched materials for reference.  Over George's shoulder is a small version of the monument of Lewis & Clark in Great Falls.  The "Peace Jesus" was never completed except as a maquette.

Before there was a "Peace Jesus", there was a commissioned portrait of Jesus on the Cross, rather small.  Bob did it while his daughter was dying of cancer.  The model was Maurice Chaillot, brother of his second wife, Jeanette.  He was a brilliant man, a professor, quite a bit younger than his sisters.  After  Bob's daughter died, he thought of bringing back Maurice and his sister, Helene, in order to sculpt a Pieta, the image of Mary holding the dead body of her son.  This piece is a result.  For a long time he was afraid to cast it in bronze for fear of botching it somehow, but it turned out fine.  You can see the familiarity of his relationship to this piece by the way he puts his arm around it, as though it was a person.  Of course, it is a double portrait of two people he loved.  As far as I know, no casting was ever sold to anyone.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


Uploaded on Jul 22, 2010
Enjoy this newly re-discovered video of animal trainer Doug Seus and the original Bart the Bear during an exhibition in the early 1990s at Pine Butte Ranch in northwestern Montana. Video shot and provided by Lyle Gold. Edited by Kiffin Hope. Copyright 2010 The Vital Ground Foundation.

Because this video shows a tipi belonging to Bob Scriver and because the time frame is right, I think that this is when Bob made the sculpture of Bart the Bear.  It may have been shot on the Flatiron Ranch, Bob’s ranch, which is slightly farther north along the east slope of the Rockies.  I tried to contact Lyle Gold to confirm, but couldn’t find a phone number so far.