Robert Riggs, Elephant Act

Elephant Act
c. 1935
Credit Line
Museum purchase, 1943
14 ¼ x 19 5/8 in.

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.

Captain Lawrence Davis, the superintendent of the elephant herd of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey, directs a strutting circle of the animals, who raise their front legs and trunks. The print proved Riggs’s impressive anatomical grasp of the elephant and facility with subtle gradations. The artist won the John Gribble Memorial Prize for this work at the Philadelphia Print Club’s annual exhibition of contemporary printmaking.

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