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A Brief Biography of Bridget Riley
By Paul Rance

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Bridget Riley was one of the most important figures of the op art movement that flourished in the 1960s. Whereas some artists of the op art period favoured colour, light, or moiré effects, Bridget Riley preferred to work with black and white. 

Early Days

Born in Norwood, London, on April 24th, 1931, Bridget Riley grew up in Cornwall and Lincolnshire. Educated at the prestigious Cheltenham Ladies' College, Bridget Riley became steeped in art when studying the subject at Goldsmiths College from 1949 to 1952. From there she studied at the Royal College of Art between 1952 and 1955.

It was at the Royal College of Art that Bridget Riley came into contact with one of the future stars of the art world in Peter Blake. Success was not to prove to be instant for Ms. Riley, however. She had several art teaching jobs, and her artistic skills were utilised by an advertising agency.

Star of Op Art

Bridget Riley experimented with different art styles including semi-impressionistic, before creating work that was to make her name from the early 1960s onwards. She focused on creating black and white patterns that were both geometric and illusory.

Riley was to have her first solo exhibition in 1962 at Gallery One in London. Three years later her work was shown at the groundbreaking Responsive Eye exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.

Far from going to her head, Bridget Riley's success made her become disillusioned with the art world, as she felt that her art was being used too much commercially. Revered in the 1960s art world, Riley became, in 1968, the first woman, and also the first contemporary British painter, to win the International Prize for painting at Venice's renowned Biennale.

Bridget Riley's Legacy

The most famous Bridget Riley painting is probably Movement in Squares, which was created in 1961. Riley began to experiment with color from the late 1960s, and is one of the most important female figures in the history of art. Along with Hungarian-French artist Victor Vasarely, Bridget Riley was, arguably, one of the two main artists of the whole op art movement.

Op art was one of the most famous artistic aspects of the 1960s, and coalesced with rock music, fashion and photography into being a key part of the creative hub of that most memorable of decades. Bridget Riley is still a working artist, but she is now more concerned with creating artistic designs, and leaves the painting in element of her work to others.

Cover of Bridget Riley: Paintings 1982-1992 - Paperback
Available from Bridget Riley: Paintings 1982-1992 - Paperback

"20th Century culture became seriously mined in the '60s by Andy Warhol and Ray Lichtenstein, while Bridget Riley dazzled with her op art creations, and David Hockney's bright paintings mirrored the colour of the decade." From Paul Rance's 50 Great Moments and Memories of the 1960s.

Copyright © 2019 Paul Rance