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Robert Riggs


Bassham A Successful commercial illustrator and graphic artist whose work mirrored his avid interests in American Indians primitive peoples and circus performers. Born in Decatur Illinois Riggs first studied art at James Millikin University in Illinois.

"Robert Riggs's dream at age eleven was to join the traveling carnival troupes that he saw in Decatur and picture in a hundred or so drawings that reveal his precocious talent. After studies at the Art Students League in New York from 1915-1917, he worked as an illustrator for the Philadelphia advertising agency N.W. Ayer and Son. In 1918 he spent time in Paris, where he took courses at the Academie Julian. He produced his first lithograph in 1932, on themes from the popular world of boxing ("Before the Fight", 1932). When Ringling Brothers came to Philadelphia the following year he made a systematic study of the circus. During the day he sketched and photographed the performers outside the ring, and in the evening he attended their performances. From this close contact came a series of fifteen meticulously realistic lithographs depicting the top-billed acts of the the three-ring show: the clown Felix Adler, the Flying Concellos, the barebacked-riding Reiffenach sisters, the high-wire walker Con Colleano, the elephant trainer Larry Davis, and the Wein Hais Chinese acrobats. In 1934 national acclaim from the technical virtuosity of his lithograph "Center Ring" prompted him to give up painting and devote himself to drawing and printmaking." - "The Great Parade : Portrait of the Artist as Clown" edited by Jean Clair, Published by Yale University Press, 2004.