Robert Riggs was born in Decatur, Illinois in 1896. In 1913, he was a student in the fine arts program at James Milkin University and from 1915 to 1917 he studied at the Art Students League in New York City.
Riggs moved to Philadelphia where he worked for N.W. Ayer & Co. At the onset of WWI, he enlisted with the Red Cross and served as a medic. After the war, he returned to his previous job. Riggs also worked as a freelance artist producing magazine illustrations, as well as paintings and lithographs for advertising purposes.
During the 1930s and 1940s, Riggs made separate art prints, which told of his fascination with the circus, boxing and hospital accident wards. His subjects are realistically portrayed, with an unsettling edge, as if they might be slightly manic.
Riggs was fairly notorious for his love of snakes, a number of which he kept as pets in his own home. He taught at the Philadelphia College of Art, now called the University of the Arts. Though Riggs did not number many of his prints, the typical edition size for most appears to be 50.