Robert R. "Bob" Auth considered himself a "producer" of fine art; indeed, when viewing his body of work, one might rightly assess him as prolific.
But defining the artist and his creations is more difficult. Although descriptions may correctly attach – "renaissance...", "experimental...", "curious..." – he and his art were understandably of greater depth. With natural talent, and skills developed over many years, Bob Auth was prolific on his life-journey to express his passions, personal interests and unique edgy style in widely diverse media. Acrylic paintings of pop-art reflective surfaces, pen-and-ink lithographs of grizzled mountain men and the American West, symbolic paper maché sculptures of historic periods in American history are a few of the media to which he applied his unique talent and style.
Robert Auth was also a natural storyteller. Over a six-decade career as a painter, printmaker, and sculptor, he produced a body of work both wide-ranging in its subject matter and precise in its reverence for historical detail. His lithographs of trappers and frontiersmen, the Nez Perce War of 1877, and scenes from early Idaho airmail fields provide a stirring visual record of little-known stories of the West, combining an illustrator’s eye for narrative and a historian’s devotion to accuracy. Whatever the medium, from acrylic pop art, to gun engravings, to “cartridge boards” – illustrated, mounted collections of historic bullets and casings – Auth transformed it into a way of telling his story.
Robert Auth was born on October 27, 1926 in Bloomington, Illinois. At age 17, he left school to join the U.S. Navy, where he served aboard a naval destroyer during World War II. After receiving an honorable discharge, he resumed his education and received a bachelor’s of fine arts degree from Illinois Wesleyan University in 1952.
He spent the next seven years working in his family’s restaurant and grocery store in Bloomington, but moved to Boise, Idaho (Pacific northwest USA) in 1959 after being inspired by Idaho’s landscape on a hunting trip near the Salmon River in 1955. In Idaho, Auth began his long career in art and art education, first for a year at Burley High School, and then in Boise, where he spent the next 20 years teaching arts and humanities at East Junior High (1961-67) and Boise High (1967-81). For the final six years of Auth’s career with Boise Independent Schools, he held the position of District Art Supervisor, during which time he designed the current Boise Schools Logo. He retired from teaching in 1988; and, from then until his death in May of 2011, largely resided in Yellow Pine, Idaho.
His works are on display in public buildings and museums, private collections throughout the world, and have been accepted by the Smithsonian in Washington, DC.
Robert R. "Bob" Auth was born in Bloomington, Illinois on October 27, 1926.
At 17 he left school to join the United States Navy, where he served aboard destroyers during WW II. He was awarded three medals, a combat action award, and a cold war service award. After an honorable discharge, he resumed his education at Illinois Wesleyan University, where he studied painting, art history, etching, engraving, and education.
In 1950, Bob married Norma J. Hill of Bloomington, Illinois. In 1952, he was elected into the Delta Phi Delta National Art Fraternity. He received the Roland Scholarship Best of Show for etching and engraving in 1952. In 1953 he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from Illinois Wesleyan University.
In 1955, Bob and his cousin visited Idaho on a hunting trip. Impressed by their experiences in the Salmon River country, they returned again, this time bringing a childhood friend. All three would eventually move to Boise in 1959. Tragically, Bob's cousin and friend met with early deaths.
In 1960, Bob and his family moved to Burley, Idaho where he taught art. A year later, he returned to Boise where he became a teacher at East Junior High School. He remained there from 1961 to 1967. During this time, he resumed his education at Washington State University, earning a Master of Fine Arts Degree in 1963.
In 1967, he transferred to Boise High School where he was a teacher of Arts and Humanities until 1981.
Following a divorce in 1976, he was granted a sabbatical leave to pursue a Doctorate at the University of Idaho. In 1977, he met Alice Trotchie of Butte, Montana. They married in 1979. Alice was a member of the Cree Chippewa Little Shell Band of the Turtle Mountain Agency, and inspired many of Bob's Native American projects.
As part of his graduate studies, he studied print and paper making at the Tamarind Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
In 1981, Bob became the Art Supervisor for the Boise School District until he retired in 1987. In addition to his teaching assignments for Boise Schools, he also taught at Albertson's College of Idaho, Boise State University, and the Boise Gallery of Art.
Bob served on numerous Boards of Directors and was involved in many facets of community service. He served on the Executive Board of Directors for the Boise Education Association (1969 - 1971). Other Board positions included the Boise Gallery of Art, from (1968 - 1974), the Idaho Alliance for the Arts in Education, (1982 - 1986), and the Boise City Arts Commission (1984 - 1988). He also served as Chairman of Art Curriculum Development for the Boise School District, Community Advisor to the Junior League, and Chair of the Committee to Develop Idaho State Humanities Curriculum Guide for Secondary Schools in 1985.
During his lifetime, Bob received many honors and awards, including: numerous commendations from the Mayor's and Governor's offices for working with handicapped programs; First Idaho Invitational Traveling Exhibit; Rick's College Purchase Award; Artist of the Year for Outstanding Contribution to Art in the Community; National Arts Education Association Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Profession of Education; Governor of Idaho Award for Excellence in the Arts; and The Idaho Statesman Distinguished Citizen. he also received the Phi Delta Kappa's Annual Friend of Education Award, the Idaho Historical Society Honorary Curator of Military History, and the Ee-Da-How-Long Rifles, Inc. Outstanding Service Award.
In 1983, Bob's work was selected for the Smithsonian Institute's exhibit, "Sawtooths and Other Ranges of the Imagination", showcasing Idaho artists. His work was also included in the Smithsonian Institute's Postal Museum Exhibit's permanent collection.
Bob's work is included in various collections: Illinois Wesleyan University, Washington State University, Idaho State University, and the Salt Lake Art Center are among them. Other collections include those of H. J. Heinz III, Boise Cascade Corporation, College of Southern Idaho, BYU Idaho, Boise Gallery of Art, Boise City Duane Beeson Municipal Airport, Boise City Railroad Depot, Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, and Department of the Interior Big Hole National Battlefield.
Upon retirement, Bob decided to revisit the Salmon River Country he had enjoyed so much. Purchasing land in Yellow Pine, Idaho, Bob and the son of a childhood friend built his first log home, in town. He later built another on the Salmon River.
During that time, Bob spent many happy moments watching the elk, fox, bear, and birds that visited his yard. He also continued to produce his art and become a strong force in the Yellow Pine Community. Along with other dedicated citizens, he created and helped erect a monument dedicated to veterans from the Yellow Pine Basin. He also designed T shirts for the Annual Yellow Pine Harmonica Fest, which helped raise funds for the town.
Bob's time in Yellow Pine provided opportunities for reflection and research, and he began work on his biography, "Francie's Camera" - The Art and Stories of Robert Auth, published 2011.
Bob Auth was a prolific producer of fine art in numerous media: Acrylic painting; pen and ink lithography; calligraphy; unique media such as bone, wood, rawhide and metalwork; sculpture, watercolor painting; papier mache, engraving; etching; and pastels.