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Robert Riggs (1896-1970)
The Brown Bomber
signed 'R Riggs' (lower right)
charcoal, pastel, and pencil on paper
19½ x 25¼ in. (49.6 x 64.1 cm.)

Lot Essay

The present work depicts the famed June 22, 1938 boxing match between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling, during which Louis triumphed over his opponent after a mere two minutes and four seconds in the ring, winning the title of heavyweight champion of the world. This was an especially sweet victory for Louis, whose defeat by the German boxer two years earlier after twelve exhausting rounds had caused great disappointment and resonated throughout the nation. Louis' 1938 victory over Schmeling was regarded as a triumph for his country, as United States inched closer towards war. Nicknamed "The Brown Bomber," Louis would become one of the first African-Americans to become a national sports hero. Sportswriter Jimmy Cannon famously characterized the boxer as "a credit to his race, the human race."

Best known for his action-filled prize-fighting scenes and illustrations, Robert Riggs captures the chaos and tension of this scene in a detailed and theatrical manner. The present work relates to the the artist's full-scale oil composition with the same title (1938), which helped the artist gain election to the National Academy of Design in 1946.

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