Robert Riggs, Club Fighter

14 1/8 x 18 1/8 in.

Robert Riggs frequently used boxers as his subjects. Going to training gyms, evening bouts, and even dressing rooms, Riggs observed fighters in all aspects of their professional lives. In 1931, he attended an exhibition of George Bellows’s prints of boxers, which inspired him to learn lithography and take up the boxing ring as a subject. Where Bellows sometimes veered into caricature in his depictions, Riggs endowed his subjects with heroism and grit.

In this print, a hard-bitten trainer helps a boxer remove his diamond-patterned robe. The fighter has already clenched his left arm and stepped forward in preparation for the fight. A part of the process, Riggs sanded and rubbed away the grease to achieve the subtle gradations of the boxer’s brawny back. Spectators crowd the edges of the ring. Riggs made many preparatory sketches of the silhouetted man in the fedora in the lower right corner.

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