Known for his paintings of sports & prize-fighting scenes, Robert Riggs had a successful career as an illustrator & artist, especially in the 1930s & 40s. His painting, The Brown Bomber, showed the boxing victory of Joe Louis over Max Schmeling. This is one of the paintings that earned Riggs election to the National Academy of Design in 1946
He was born in Decatur, Illinois & as a young man ran away from home to join the circus. He studied at the James Milliken University in Illinois, and then trained at the Art Students League in New York; but his study was interrupted by Army service in World War I.
After the war ended, he stayed overseas & attended the Academie Julian in Paris. When he returned to the United States, he settled in Philadelphia & worked for N.W. Ayer & Sons, an advertising agency for whom he did numerous illustrations.
He painted circus scenes remembered from his youth & history paintings from early America. He also painted fanciful exotic scenes. In Pennsylvania, he was active in the Germantown Boys Club, where he worked with an Indian lore group. He was a collector of European, Asian, and African artifacts, and his art studio was like a museum.