Belskie was born as Abraham Belskie in London, England on March 24, 1907 but moved to Glasgow, Scotland at age 2. He showed an early talent for drawing but the family was too poor to buy drawing paper for him so he drew on the sidewalk. At age 15 he became an apprentice to a local painter and enrolled at the Glasgow School of Art from where he graduated in 1926. He continued his art studies in London, Paris, and Rome but ultimately returned to Glasgow where he opened his own studio and worked as an assistant and instructor at the Glasgow School of Art.
Abram Belskie emigrated to the United States in 1929, finding employment with fellow London-born sculptor John Gregory. On advice from Gregory he changed his name from Abraham to Abram to "make his name more kosher." Over the course of the next three years he worked as Gregory's assistent on the bas-relief for the facade of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC. During this time, in 1931, he moved to Closter, New Jersey, where he worked in master carver Robert Alexander Baillie's studio where most of the preparatory work for the project was performed. He would live and work in Closter for the rest of his life.
In 1938 Belskie's friend Malvina Hoffman introduced him to the physician Dr. Robert Latou Dickinson. Dickinson was famous for his anatomical models which he used to teach anatomy, procedure and diagnostics. He was also a vice-president of Planned Parenthood and president of the Euthanasia Society. While Dickinson had the anatomical knowledge and some skill, he knew that he lacked artistry so he asked Belskie to collaborate. Dickinson and Belskie would create thousands of medical models until Dickinson's death in 1950. Two of the most famous examples from this period are Normman and Norma, two statues representing the "normal" American.
Belskie's excursion into what we would call "medical imaging" was not limited to his collaboration with Dickinson. He worked with other physicians and was a full faculty member at the New York Medical College, where he taught several generations of physicians. He also did pioneer work in forensics, inventing many techniques used in post-mortem feature reconstruction.
His work as a medallic artist began in 1952 and in this part of his career he is probably most famous for his medals depicting famous physicians or medical scientists. Presidential Art Medals contracted him for their Great Men of Medicine series of medals. He also created To Thine Own Self Be True, the 49th issue of the Society of Medalists series (1954) and the 50th Anniversary Medal for Brookgreen Gardens.
Abram Belskie died in 1988 in Closter, the town in which he had lived most of his life.
Sourced mainly from the Belskie Museum.