This is a cross between “aggregation” and “curation.” That is, I’m going to list and discuss all the bronzes by Bob Scriver in each of three auctions to be presented in Great Falls over the weekend of March 20, 21, and 22. I’m drawing on their online “catalogs” which are also available from them as printed books. If the websites include past auctions, I’m listing those bronzes as well. I have never seen any of the many hydrocal castings we sold show up in an auction. They are durable if left in place but probably would be damaged by the kind of shifting, storing, and shipping necessary for auctions.
Today’s list is from the classic CM Russell Auction that was previously always a benefit auction for the Charles M. Russell Museum. www.cmrauction.com
#16: “War Prize” Casting 189 of 210. 14.5”x4”x8”
A warrior holds a rifle high overhead. I can’t see what kind of gun it is, but I suspect it might be a Hawken, which Bob was especially fond of and which is an excellent steady and accurate long-distance rifle. Great for buffalo hunting when one wants to shoot from a distance, dropping a group one by one. This a later piece and begins to show a strange “Giacometti” effect on Bob’s figures, which became very small-headed and thin-armed, perhaps the effect of strokes on his perception. By this time he was no longer using calipers except on portraits.
#66 “The White Flags” Casting 3 of 125 16”x14”x1”
A beautiful grouping of whitetail deer, famous for their big white tails which wag behind them when they flee. From the angle pictured, it’s easy to see the Rungius theory of composition, which was based on an X to show action. Bob’s animals never lost their accuracy and he never lost his love for them, which was his first kind of sculpture. The casting looks quite smooth and the patina quite light. Later castings were mostly done by ceramic shell foundries which end up with a smooth surface. This smooth/light patina can look disturbingly like plastic.
#87 “A New Camp” Casting 3 of 50. 11.75”x8”x24”
This is a simpler version of a later series of horse/rider/dog pieces. A woman rides the horse which pulls a travois and is followed by a dog. She has a baby on her back.
#141 “CM Russell, the Cowboy Artist” Casting 6 of 35. 24”x10.5”x7 3/8”
A small version of the portrait of Russell at the Russell Museum, probably meant for sale to pay for the big monumental-sized emplacement. Portraits of Russell haunted Bob because his entry in the 1960 competition which he lost but which provided him the impetus and connections necessary to start his career.
#245 “Winter King” Casting 49 of 110 24”x10x23”
From the original series of maquettes meant to guide full-mounts of all the game animals in Montana for the Scriver Museum of Montana Wildlife, now dispersed. The caribou occupied the extreme NW corner of the state near Yaak where a bit of rain forest is far enough north to have moss good for them to eat. Climate change has eliminated them. Bob never acquired a caribou to mount. This figure was created in the Fifties and is classic Scriver animal portraiture.
#246 “Moon of the Yellow Leaves” Casting 8 of 125. 14”x17”x9”
This elk group echoes the group of whitetail deer. It is again composed around a dynamic diagonal line though the animals are simply standing in alert. That spike bull at the bottom of the group won’t be around much longer. Technically, the casting appears smooth, like a ceramic-shell casting. Actually, Scriver made all his animals smooth in the early years and was criticized for it.
#51 “Moving On” Casting 44 of 50. 14.5”x33.5”x8” Sold for $5,000.
This procession represents a family group. The casting called “A New Camp” is the rear half of this sculpture, minus the colt, and I suppose the front half was also sold separately. Lines of figures are appealing to buyers who want to put sculpture on a fireplace mantel or in silhouette against a window. This is sort of an Indian version of a pack string.
#52 “Race to the Rendezous” Casting 52 of 75 14”x22”x95” Sold for $3,500
Here’s another action piece full of slant lines. It is a story and I’d bet that rifle is a Hawken. Scriver undoubtedly made a small mold specifically to produce them to scale. Collectors of Western bronzes tend to group by subject matter, so here’s one for the mountain men.
#110 “Too Late for the Hawken” Casting 19 of 50. 23”x30”x24” Sold for $7,000
This time the mountain man has been surprised by a warrior, but the principles are the same as the bronze above. This looks more like a typical Scriver patina which was influenced by the French Animaliers we saw in New York City in 1965 when Bob was on “To Tell the Truth.”
#125 “The Holy Woman” Casting 6 of 40. 13.5x23x10 Sold for $2,000.
Another horse-and-travois piece, but this one is based on Agnes Mad Plume who always wore her Horn Society headdress in the North American Indian Days Parade in the early days when the whole event put much more emphasis on the Old Days. Her daughter has kept up the tradition.
#138 “Ready for Battle” Casting 69 of 150. 13”x11”x6” Sold for $2,000
This bull elk is “in rut”, aroused, starving, his neck thickened by hormones, bugling to announce his potency. They are easy to call when in this state and Bob loved to do it. One evening, a little too dark, we called one nearly nose-to-nose. They don’t taste good when in rut, so calling one means trophy hunting. We didn’t even take a gun along.
#170 “The Spotted Colt” Casting 100 of 100. 11”x14”x6.5” Sold for $2,500
Another “going along” story group: a mare with her colt, a woman with her children. The “spotted” is a reference to Appaloosa horses.
#171 “Silence is Safety” Casting 21 of 150. 12.5”x15x7” Sold for $2,000
A story piece about a warrior and his horse, which is a exceptionally nice one. The accouterments will be of interest to some collectors. This warrior is not quite so Giacometti/basketball player as some of the others. The slight hill gives the triangular composition a little dynamism.
#24 “The Outfitter” Casting 18 of 40. 13”x9”x4” Sold for $2,500
A simple portrait of a hunting outfitter on his horse, alert and experienced. It might be based on an actual person. The chaps imply riding in brush or trees, since they are meant to protect one’s legs.
#126 “Counting Coup” Casting 62 of 175. Sold for $6.500
The first sculpture on this theme was commissioned by George Montgomery and in that one the man on the ground is simultaneously killing the man on the horse. Counting coup doesn’t mean that the man on the ground will be killed, only that the opportunity was there.
#173 “New Camp” Casting 5 of 50. Sold for $6,000
See remarks for the same sculpture in 2010. #87 in that catalogue.
#28 “Budding Buckaroo” Casting 54 of 150. Sold for $3,500.
A little boy with a rope offering an apple to a colt.
#83 “White Flags” Casting 102 of 125. 16”x14.5”x11” Sold for $4,500
See remarks for the same sculpture in 2010, catalogue #66.
#178 “Sky Climbers” Casting 7 of 10. 20”x25.5”x15 Sold for $6,000
In 1965 Bob created a smaller version of this idea, calling it “Into the Wind.” It proved very popular and by now many artists have created groups of waterfowl landing. This is a relatively early piece so was probably cast in Bob’s own Big Horn Foundry. The small limit on the number of castings also makes it more valuable.
#225 “Moon of Yellow Leaves” Casting 102 of 125. 14”x17”x9” $5,000
See remarks on the 2010 list, catalogue #246
#264 “Too Late for the Hawken” Casting 45 of 50. 223”x30x24. Not sold.
See remarks on the 2090 list, catalogue #110
Most of these pieces were produced late in Scriver’s career and were much influenced by entrepreneurs suggesting what would sell. Some of them commissioned pieces and bought the copyright along with the original so they could cast them. They planned large editions which reduces the value and castings were ceramic shell process which also makes them less valuable. “Winter King” and “Sky Climbers” were earlier.
What I’m saying is that though these bronzes are appealing, they are the low end of the Scriver range of a thousand bronzes so the prices are lesser. None of the big rodeo pieces are here -- in fact, no rodeo pieces at all, maybe because the jury felt they didn’t relate to Charlie Russell. There are a few of the bigger, more significant bronzes cast in the Bighorn Foundry moving around out there, but not many. People are holding onto them or they are moving privately through galleries.