Artist Name


birth3/24/1907 in London, EnglandPicture of Abram Belskie
death11/17/1988 in Westwood, NJ
parents
educationGlasgow School of Art
awardsJohn Keppie Traveling Scholarship, Scotland, 1926
Sir John Edward Burnett Prize, Scotland, 1928
Lindsay Morris Memorial Award, 1951
J. Sanford Saltus Medal, National Numismatic Society, 1953
Mrs. Louis Bennett Award, 1956
Golden Anniversary Prize, Allied Artists of America, 1963

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.

You can click medals to switch between obverse and reverse sides.

To Thine Own Self Be True 1954
by Abram Belskie
SOM-49.1
Red-gold bronze with light tan patina
SOM-49.4
Silver

This medal was chosen as the 49th issue of the prestigious Society of Medalists series. The medal's obverse bears a muscular nude goddess of art holding a small Nike with Pegasus and guiding star behind. The reverse bears a hand holding a modeling tool in front of a caliper and L-square. Around, THIS ABOVE ALL TO THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE.

The purpose of Abram Belskie's medal is not known, but the title, a line from Shakespeare's Hamlet, suggests that this medal was commissioned to honor artistic achievement and to encourage artists to follow their own creative impulses. In the artist's own words:

"The drama of Sculpture does not always appear on the surface but its story is indeed the story of civilization. Art is a goddess who smiles upon all, though mostly on her votaries and whose charms are very young. The sculptors of every age are the true mute though not inglorious laureates of their time and as long as men remain men, the principals [sic] of eternal beauty will woo their imagination."

The Society's members seemed torn on this medal. While some found it beautiful and even without peer, others objected to lack of detail, anatomical weaknesses, and being too modernistic for plain men.

SOM-49.1
Bronze
73.0mm (2.87in)
Red-gold bronze with light tan patina
THE SOCIETY OF MEDALISTS-49TH ISSUE-MAY 1954-ABRAM BELSKIE, SC.
MEDALLIC ART CO.N.Y. BRONZE
SOM-49.2
Bronze
73.0mm (2.87in)
Golden bronze with light tan patina
THE SOCIETY OF MEDALISTS-49TH ISSUE-MAY 1954-ABRAM BELSKIE, SC.
MACO BRONZE
SOM-49.3
Bronze
73.0mm (2.87in)
Golden bronze with light tan patina
THE SOCIETY OF MEDALISTS-49TH ISSUE-MAY 1954-ABRAM BELSKIE, SC.
MEDALLIC ART CO.-DANBURY, CONN
SOM-49.4
Silver
73.0mm (2.87in)
THE SOCIETY OF MEDALISTS-49TH ISSUE-MAY 1954-ABRAM BELSKIE, SC. - ONE OF LIMITED ISSUE OF 700
© MEDALLIC ART CO. DANBURY, CT. .999 FINE SILVER
Cine Clinic Medal1957
AB-CC
Bronze

The obverse bears masked and gowned surgeon pulling a suture with surgical tool. Over shoulder along edge, CINE CLINIC.

The reverse bears dedication between laurels: Presented By / DAVIS & GECK / DIVISION OF / AMERICAN CYANAMID COMPANY / FOR PARTICIPATION IN / THE CINE CLINIC PROGRAM OF / THE AMERICAN COLLEGE / OF SURGEONS.

The medal is edge-marked MEDALLIC ART CO.N.Y. BRONZE.

This medal is another example of Belskie's beautiful medallic rendition of the medical profession. The surgeon is rendered in loving detail and very high relief.

The medal measures 75.9mm (3in) and was struck in bronze by the Medallic Art Company of New York.

The Johnson Medal1960
AB-JM
Bronze

The obverse bears a scientist facing half left, between microscope, pestle, and flask. Around, THE JOHNSON MEDAL. Signed, ABRAM BELSKIE Sc. The reverse bears a female goddess with snake, goblet and plaque. Above, THE JOHNSON MEDAL. Below, FOR RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT.

Belskie designed this medal for Johnson & Johnson. Every year since 1960 a group of J&J's outstanding scientists from around the world are awarded the Johnson Medal, the firm's highest scientific honor. These scientists have made discoveries that led to new products in every area of J&J's businesses. In the words of Johnson and Johnson's website: "They have taken us in new directions and helped us improve the health and well being of people the world over."

Columbia University School of Physicians and Surgeons Medal1967
AB-CPS
Bronze

The obverse bears a figure of an ancient female in flight, holding torch with snake. Around, COLLEGE OF PHYSICIANS & SURGEONS / COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY; in lower left, ABRAM / BELSKIE / Sc. The reverse bears the portal to Presbyterian Hall; around, TWO HUNDREDTH ANNIVERSARY / 1767 (crown) 1967.

Belskie designed this medal for the 200 year anniversary celebration of Columbia University's medical school.

The medal measures 76mm (3in) in diameter and was struck in bronze by the Medallic Art Company of New York.

Fiftieth Anniversary 1981
BG-9
Golden bronze

This was the nineth of the prestigious Brookgreen Gardens member medals, issued in 1981.

The obverse bears allegorical figure symbolizing the art of sculpture framed by yellow jessamine and Carolina wrens. Above, 50TH ANNIVERSARY; to left and right, 1931 - 1981; below, BROOKGREEN GARDENS IS A QUIET / JOINING OF HANDS BETWEEN SCIENCE & ART

The reverse bears American eagle along with palmettos and live oaks, the former being South Carolina's state tree and the latter a symbol of the State. Above, CONSERVING NATURE; below, BROOKGREEN / GARDENS OF SOUTH CAROLINA

The medal measures 76mm in diameter and was produced by the Medallic Art Company.

  • Statue of the Christ child

    Christ Child (1934)

    Christ Child was carved while Belskie worked in the stone-carving studio of Robert Baillie. It was Belskie's first public sculpture and was purchased by Archer Huntington for Brookgreen in 1934. The work depicts a child with a cruciform halo. Stylized symbols of the evangelists fill angles in the design.

    Image courtesy of the museum.

  • Moonbeam

    The Moonbeam (1936)

    White marble statue of a girl looking up at the night sky in contemplation. This statue is located in in the sculpture garden at Brookgreen Gardens. Anna Hyatt Huntington purchased several marble statues and wrote:

    "I must, wherever possible, have stone compositions - a garden made up entirely of bronze pieces becomes monotonous and very much needs careful introduction of various stones and marble to break this monotony."

    Image courtesy of the museum.

  • Statue of a normal man Statue of a normal woman

    Normman and Norma (1943)

    The name of the male statue is not a misspelling. While Belskie was the sculptor for these statues, the body proportions were based on measurements of 15,000 men and women that obstetrician-gynecologist Robert Latou Dickinson had taken over the course of many years. The resulting figures were to represent the "normal" man and woman of the age. Clearly, Dr. Dickinson dealt mainly with Caucasian patients.

    The Cleveland Health Museum (now closed) purchased the statues in 1945.

  • Statue of a kneeling god

    Mercury (1950s)

    Belskie made this sculpture in the 1950s for American Van Lines.

    The original image can be found here.



Contact me if you have links that might merit inclusion on this page.

Books & Articles

American Art Medals, 1909-1995 by David Thomason Alexander
David T. Alexander's book can be purchased at the above link. Highly recommended for anyone interested in SOM. I am deeply indebted to him for all the information I used to document the SOM medals on this site.

Research Archives and Websites

John Snow Medal
Short write up on Belskie at UCLA in connection with his Dr. John Snow medal.
Dr. Michael Nevins' Biography on Abram Belskie
A presentation by Dr. Michael Nevins, President of Medical Society of NJ, in 2012.
How Abram Belskie Made Medals
A very nice document including pictures of several of Belskie's rarer medals (PDF).
Catalog of Abram Belskie's Medallic Works
A great compilation by D. Wayne Johnson (PFD).

Museums

Belskie Museum
Short biography of Abram Belskie.