When I purchased P&H, I discovered an old file cabinet containing the agencies scrap files going back to the 1920′s. The files contained reference photos taken for the staff illustrators, advertisements, and samples of illustrators the agency admired. Over the coming weeks I will post these samples, some bio info, and my commentary. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed discovering them.

Boxers, Life Magazine

ROBERT RIGGS (1896-1970)

I was not familiar with the work of Robert Riggs, but I can see how his style has influenced some contemporary illustrators. His heroic figures, with their thick, block shapes look like they where hewn from stone. They are compelling, yet at the same time eerily disturbing. You can especially see this in his later lithographic work depicting circuses, boxers and psychopathic wards —Bruce Hettema

Robert Riggs is known for his paintings of prize-fighting and circus-genre scenes and lithography of gigantic size compositions, He  had a highly successful career as an artist, especially in the 1930s and 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.

Liberty, Lithograph—Beautiful composition with an unsettling atmospheric quality. I like how this scrap has a few brush strokes off to the side where an artist, using this image for reference, was cleaning his/her brush.

Robert Riggs was born in Decatur, Illinois and as a young man ran away from home and joined 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.

He stayed overseas and attended the Academie Julian in Paris and then returned to the United States where he settled in Philadelphia and worked for N.W. Ayer & Sons, an advertising agency for whom he did numerous illustrations. 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 studio was like a museum.*

Saturday Evening Post, September 1943

Circus Lithographic series

Psychopathic Wards, Lithographic series

From 1932 he began to make lithographs, possibly inspired by an exhibition of George Bellows’ work held in Philadelphia the previous year. Of the 84 lithographs Riggs produced, some 55 were produced between 1932–1934.

Life Magazine profile (Can’t say the headline would fly to well today, “snakes and boys”, but he looks like he was an interesting charactor.)