Robert Riggs "Dust Bowl" Lithograph, ca. 1941
Back in the '70s, I used to frequent a lot of flea markets. This one I picked up in about mid- or late '70s. And it was a big farmers' market, and I walked up to one table, and I was looking through the boxes, and there were some interesting, uh, frames that I wanted for my own work, myself, and this I found, it was in a different frame. I asked the young lady how much she wanted, and she said, "Well, $25," and I said, "Well, I'll give you $15." She, she said, "Well, how about $20?" I said, "How about $15?" So she said, "Okay." So, I brought it home. And I had it reframed, and I now currently have it on my wall with all my other farm-related drawings.
So the artist is Robert Riggs.
He was born in Decatur, Illinois, and he came to Pennsylvania after studying for a while in New York, and established himself in Philadelphia, just across the river, and he worked principally as an illustrator. Most of the lithographs he made-- he made some 80 or so lithographs-- were done from the advertisements or illustrations he was working on for magazines like The Saturday Evening Post, Life. It's thought that he was influenced by the American printmaker George Bellows, because Riggs is best-known for his fight scenes: the boxing scenes he did, which looked back to those famous lithographs that George Bellows made, like "Stag at Sharkey's" from the teens. Whereas Riggs was working mainly in the 1930s and 1940s, eh, a little bit into the '40s, '50s, and '60s, but he, he went into obscurity in the '50s. He's best known for these lithographs he made in the '30s and '40s, and the title of this work is "Dust Storm." And it's a lithograph from circa 1941 by Riggs. Riggs was doing many of his lithographs initially as commissions for advertising campaigns, and he could sell some, too. It's a classic Dust Bowl scene, and it's reminiscent of so many other images from this time period. I'm thinking of that William Rothenstein photograph of the family running to shelter in the house during a dust storm. It very much has that mood. It's this heroic fight against this natural force. Riggs displays that beautifully with his technique here, and the, the, the detail to the clouds and the storm and the figural group down below there. There's this great contrast between light and dark in this image, as well. And with all that said, it's actually an image that was made as an advertisement for Purolator air filters in The Saturday Evening Post.
But it was a successful image, and it's still one of his top lithographs to this day. It's one of the most sought-after prints he made. Yours looks like it's in wonderful condition. I see just a few spots in the blank area. He produced between 50 and 100, most likely. Not a lot have survived. Many are in public collections. This is not something that you can just go out to a gallery or anywhere and buy. I would put a replacement value on yours at $15,000.
(laughing) Winner, winner, winner! (laughs) Good. Well, that's not bad for a, a $15 investment.
Add a few zeros.
Nope, that's not bad. (chuckles)
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