Known for his paintings of prize-fighting and circus-genre scenes and lithography of gigantic size compositions, Robert Riggs 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
He 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.