[N.p., but likely Philadelphia. ca. 1952]. Oil on panel, 12 x 20 3/4 inches. Colors characteristically bright. Very good. Framed. Item #WRCAM31630
Robert Riggs (1896-1970) was in his heyday one of the best-known artists and illustrators in the United States. After studies at the Art Students League and service during World War I, Riggs settled in Philadelphia, his home base for the rest of his life. In the 1930s and '40s he rose to national prominence as an illustrator, lithographer, and commercial artist, producing well-known images of boxers and circuses (two life-long obsessions), and of soldiers during World War II. In 1940, around the peak of his career as an illustrator, his drawings commanded $750- $1,500 each, and his name was as well-known in the trade as that of Norman Rockwell. But Riggs loathed this commercial work, and after 1950 he slid increasingly into obscurity, although revered by those who knew him in the Philadelphia art world. When he died in 1970, he was almost forgotten. He worked on panels produced expressly for him by F. Weber & Co., and the rear of the panel of this work bears the Weber factory label, noting that it was created in June, 1952 "for the exclusive use of Robert Riggs." The label goes on to note that "the composition of the ground is based upon microchemical and historical investigations of Renaissance painting grounds."
Riggs often worked with dry pigment using mastic varnish and alcohol as his medium; and alternately, with oil paint if deadlines allowed. This painting displays Riggs's characteristic combination of motion and stillness, showing a Roman charioteer in full regalia, with a plumed helmet and decorative breastplate, a whip in one hand and the reins in another. Three powerful horses of varying colors gallop forward, dust rising at their feet. This is an excellent example of his illustration style.