Sunday, July 13, 2014


Bob Scriver exhibit ‘Mastery in Bronze’ 
at Montana Historical Society

A new exhibit at the Montana Historical Society Museum features the work of Robert MacFie Scriver, whose rodeo, wildlife and Native American bronzes have been shown at galleries and museums, and been prized by collectors across the nation
and the world.

“Mastery in Bronze: Selections from The Bob Scriver Collection” features bronzes from all three genres and tells the story of the man who was born in 1914 on the Blackfeet Reservation in Browning, where his parents operated a mercantile company.
This is the 100-year anniversary of his birth, and when he died in 1999, he was still at work in his studio at his gallery and museum in Browning. He grew up amid the vast plains and “shining” mountains surrounded by frontier characters and Blackfeet elders.
His work with taxidermy soon led him to begin experimenting with sculpting and later bronzes. He had his first major exhibition at his Browning studio in 1961. It received acclaim and national recognition followed.
In 2000, his fourth wife Lorraine donated a large collection of his work including bronzes, sculptures and other artwork and memorabilia to the Montana Historical Society.
There will be a public event on Thursday, Aug. 14, to commemorate his birthday.
Robert MacFie Scriver, 1960
Photo by Butch DeSmet

Bob Scriver was born in 1914.  This year he would have been a hundred years old, but he died in 1999.  Below is a transcription of a letter to the editor of the Glacier Reporter in March of a year that has been accidentally torn off, but it may have been close to the year of his death.  Anyway, I wrote it.

When I’ve done memorials for very old people, I’ve always tried to summon up a mental picture of them as they were when they were young.  We forget what people were like when they were young, or maybe we weren’t even born yet.

When I came to Browning in 1961, Bob Scriver was 47 and full of energy.  He still kept his white horse (half-Arabian from Andy Whitford’s mare and some visiting stallion who could jump fences) in a corral behind his museum and rode him up and down the alleys of town as well as in every parade.  None of his work had been cast in bronze yet -- just hydrocal.  He’d had his first big-time show in Los Angeles and was about to ride in the buffalo roundup in Moiese with Ace Powell.  The C.M. Russell Art Auction hadn’t been invented yet and John Clark was still whittling in his studio in East Glacier.  Al Racine was an artist buddy along with Blake the Woodcarver in Hungry Horse.  Bob had just bought his first “real” painting, a moose by Carl Rungius sold to him by Rex Rieke.  He had to borrow the money from his mom because when he asked Andy Greenshields for a bank loan, Andy said,  “There’s no money in art, Robert!”

I like to summon up some of the names from way back then -- maybe even from before I knew Bob.  For instance, there was Jimmy Welch, Sr., the father of the novelist, who was only a little boy who used to sleep over with his playmate “Robert” at the Scriver house.  Later on on were Merle Magee, hunting partner, and Calvin Augare, who saved Bob’s eyesight in the summer of 1962 by taking him up to IHS, insisting that a doctor look at his inflamed eye, and then driving him to Great Falls to a specialist.

After World War II there was a whole raft of musicians -- a lot of Girards -- and for a while there was an art club, where a bunch of guys including Jason Devereaux used to pool a few dollars to hire a model to pose.  Of course, some students from Bob’s teaching years stayed friends his whole life.  When Bob needed something written correctly, he went to Edythe Harris, English teacher -- and if he wanted to hear something improper, he went to R.W. Harris!

Bob always had a lot of lady friends -- no, not that kind, at least not “only”!  He always had older women friends, some of them his baby sitters when he was little.  Mae Williamson posed for “Transition.”  Cecile Horn helped in so many ways -- like teaching him to put up a tipi properly.  Rose Surechief did good work.  Mary Blackman was -- well, they don’t come any better.  Esther Becker was a true friend as well as bookkeeper.  Finette Connolly made the best sourdough pancakes with chokecherry syrup of any cook this side of heaven.  

And the anthropology informants in those days were often young, but they knew a lot.  Calvin Boy and Darryl Blackman, I fancy were much like the young Duvall before he became unhappy.  Dick Whiteman and Joe Old Chief often stopped by.  Alonzo Skunkcap wasn’t an informant, but because he only lived a couple of doors away, we’d give him a ride out to his place.  He was the Real Thing, a hunter nonpariel, though in old age he was blind.  Chewing Black Bone was another inarguably authentic person, a friend of James Willard Schultz (rather less authentic).  The old Bundle Owners of the Sixties are gone now, even George and Molly Kicking Woman who were the youngest.  None were more devoted than Louis Plenty Treaty and his wife Maggie.  None were more careful than Tom and Margaret Many Guns.  No one was more shamanic than Dick Little Dog.

"Proper" anthropologists included Claude Schaeffer, Tom and Alice Kehoe (Bob performed their wedding ceremony), and Ramon Gonyea. Improper anthropologists included John Hellson and Adolf Hungry Wolf.

Bill Cochran and Eddie Costell got the rodeo stuff moving when the chance to do the Linderman statue came along.  Old Joe Davis was an honest-to-goodness open range cowboy with the “hair on.”  Joe Evans helped invent the very first foundry out in the garage behind Bob’s rental while Bob’s mom sat across the street with her hand on the phone in case it blew up.  The Weathereds helped in those early days, and so did Bob Gordon, a master welder.

Carl Cree Medicine was absolutely key to the whole Scriver Studio complex.  Over the years he learned to do most everything and it was his sons, David and Junior, who have continued on as expert casters -- not just bronze, but also plaster and mold-making, which are harder in some ways.  Gordon Monroe was the fiberglass king.

For a while there was hardly anyone in town who didn’t get pressed into service some way or other -- skinning or cleaning molds or building or cashiering or cranking out mimeographs.  Milo Fields kept the Glacier Reporter full of stories about it.  I’m undoubtedly forgetting lots of important people -- some of them probably hardly aware of how much they contributed at some small turning point.  It took a village to make this sculptor and his studio.

It’s not my place to thank all these people.  I just wanted to note them -- some are gone now.  Maybe you could thank each other and explain to the younger folks how it was.

Tell them Bob Scriver started out with $500, an old red pickup, and a vision.  They could do the same thing and maybe they’ll go even farther, esp. if they have computer skills.


Moiese Buffalo Roundup, 1962

Now and then I run across some retired Montana man who will assure me that he knew Bob Scriver and was his close friend.  I never know them.  Bob had few white friends, esp. people from off the rez.  In his last years when he was sometimes bedridden, it was Boyd and Lila Evans who kept track of both him and Lorraine, since Lorraine herself was not in good health.  I’m not sure they were repaid.  Bob bought his beloved ranch from Boyd's brother, Corky. 

Bob published three picture books.  The first was "An Honest Try" about the rodeo pieces with photos by Asger Mikkleson.  The second and third, both about the Blackfeet bronzes and his artifact collection, were photographed by Marshal Noice, who is now an artist in Kalispell.  My biography of Bob, "Bronze Inside and Out", is available on Amazon.

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