Bob Scriver, American (1914 - 1999)
Bob Scriver was born in 1914 in the Blackfeet Reservation town of Browning, Montana, where he spent most of his life. His father was an Indian trader who founded a reservation store. The artist molded small animal figures as a child but put aside his love of art to purse a career in music. He earned both a bachelor's and master's degree in music and for 17 years made music his profession both as a teacher and a cornet player.
A self taught taxidermist he mounted wildlife for over 10 years including the famous "Big Medicine" albino buffalo and the "Desert Bighorn" for the Death Valley Museum. Scriver returned to sculpting at the age of 42. His love of nature, knowledge of anatomy, an ability to compose music, and his years of close association with the Blackfeet had indispensable influences on his life as an artist.
About the same time a commission for five historical portraits of Western men with horses culminated in "Lone Cowboy," which was his trademark work for a long time. In the early Sixties he began to send bronzes to juried New York shows where they were accepted, earning him membership in the National Sculpture Society, the Salmagundi Club, the Society of Animal Artists and other prestigious groups. When the Cowboy Artists of America formed in Oklahoma, Scriver was invited to join them and then the National Academy of Western Art. With both groups he won top prizes.
In the mid-Sixties the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association commissioned him to create a heroic-sized portrait of Bill Linderman, a famous champion. This was the beginning of a long association with the PRCA for whom he created many busts of outstanding people. Also, he embarked on a huge project: a large sculpture of each rodeo event plus portraits of representatives of participants, both animals and people. "An Honest Try," a bullrider, became his new trademark and the name of a book about these sculptures. A one-and-a-half lifesized version of the sculpture stands in Kansas City.
At about this time his daughter died of cancer. A commission for a crucifix was followed by a Pieta expressing Scriver's grief. Portraits of his daughter and of the siblings of his second wife were included in this small group of exceptional sculptures.
Somewhat later, coinciding with the opening of many small commercial ceramic-shell foundries that allowed inexpensive casting, Scriver began taking commissions for small sculptures, often on subjects suggested by entrepreneurs, which he sold with the right to reproduce. This was in part because his own health did not allow him to operate his foundry. Later, he found that David Cree Medicine could operate the foundry and that Gordon Monroe could create large fiberglass monumental sculpture. He rebuilt the small original foundry into a huge cinderblock facility.
Bob Scriver was awarded gold and silver medals for excellence in sculpture by both the Cowboy Artist of America and the National Academy.
In 1976 the town of Fort Benton commissioned a heroic-sized bronze group of Lewis and Clark with Sacajawea and her baby. This was echoed by Great Falls, whose group dropped out Sacajawea in favor of York and Seaman, Lewis' dog. By now a protocol had developed to produce small maquettes of the statue and sell them to finance the monuments. Scriver used this protocol to help save a Russell painting of an elk from being sold out-of-state.
The Scriver family's collection of Blackfeet artifacts, which included a gun collection and historic RCMP uniforms, was sold to the Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton, Alberta. The insurance valuation of the collections, a million dollars, was leaked to Blackfeet activists and caused a national uproar, because ceremonial Bundles were included. Later Premier Klein of Alberta returned those sacred objects to Canadian Blackfeet.
In Browning, Montana, Scriver operated the "Museum of Montana Wildlife" and "Hall of Bronze". After the artist's death, these two collections were given to the Montana Historical Society in Helena, Montana. They have never been unpacked or displayed except as loans to other museums. The full-mount animals were put in the custody of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation where they joined many others and are occasionally displayed. Scriver's ranch became a nature refuge under the guardianship of the Blackfeet Land Trust and Nature Conservancy. The shell of the Scriver museum in Browning is now the home of The Blackfeet Heritage Center.
In 2008 the University of Calgary Press published "Bronze Inside and Out: a Biographical Memoir of Bob Scriver" written by Mary Scriver, his third wife of four.