Robert Riggs, Center Ring
An avid circusgoer from a young age, Robert Riggs began making lithographs of the performances in 1933. When Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus traveled to Philadelphia, the artist went twice a day to sketch members of the troupe onstage and off, befriending many of them. His prints portray recognizable circus characters.
In Center Ring, an equestrian balances on two horses, while her partner kneels on her shoulder. These two women are the Reiffenach sisters, who starred with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey. Stilt walkers and a clown in a full-skirted dress surround the ring, as a mass of spectators crowd the background. Riggs’s masterful control of gradations produces a soft atmosphere, punctuated by multiple hanging lights. He won first prize at the Chicago World’s Fair for this lithograph.