Bridget Riley - Photo of the artist - Image via thatsnotmyagecom

Bridget Riley

United Kingdom 1931


Bridget Riley
Bridget Riley
United Kingdom
October 21, 2016
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Known for her singular paintings which present the viewers with different illusions and effects, Bridget Riley is an abstract painter who came to fame during the American Op Art movement of the 1960s. Her paintings are all based on a concept of alluding on movement. Due to her contributions to her particular art movement, Riley’s paintings have been presented alongside pieces made by such artists as Victor Vasarely, Richard Anuszkiewicz, Frank Stella and Ellsworth Kelly. Interestingly enough, Bridget did not claim that her influences could be found amongst any of those names also associated with the Op concepts – instead, she revealed that her greatest inspiration was the work of Georges Seurat. The Pointillist painter served as an influence to Riley because of his ability to construct patterned abstractions by using color and perception.

British Tate gallery presented Riley's new painting works and decided to use it as a biography
Bridget Riley – Allegro Red, 2014 – Image via

A Tough Life Story

Bridget Riley was born in London during the year of 1931. Her father, whose name was John Fisher Riley, was originally from Yorkshire and was a printer by trade. In the year of 1938, John moved his printing business, together with his family, to the county of Lincolnshire. However, after the World War II broke out and the head of the family was drafted into the British army, Bridget went to Cornwall alongside her mother and sisters. It was in this rural environment that Riley received her informal education, mostly by listening to retired or non-qualified teachers. After the war, she attended Cheltenham Ladies’ College and later studied at the Goldsmiths College and Royal College of Art. Interestingly, she was in the same class as Peter Blake, a painter who ultimately took another course of art making. After the graduation in 1955, Riley had been involved in a serious car crash and suffered a mental breakdown as a result. After much therapy and time, Bridget joined the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency as an illustrator. During the winter of 1958, the aspiring artist visited Jackson Pollock‘s show held at the Whitechapel Gallery and this experience had a massive impact on Bridget. However, her early pieces were much more figurative than Pollock’s and had a semi-impressionist style. However, her early pieces were much more figurative than Pollock’s and had a semi-impressionist style. Eventually, this practice grew into the aforementioned qazi-pointillist technique[1].

Bridget Riley came to fame due to her painted optical illusions which are often used as highlights of the Op Art movement

Tate modern museum gave the White prize to Bridget, the tate modern museum greatest British award
Bridget Riley – Descending – Image via

The Turn to Opt Art

Somewhere around the year of 1960, Riley began to develop her signature Op Art style consisting of black and white geometric patterns that explore the dynamism of sight in order to produce a disorienting effect on the eye[2]. It took her about two years before she was finally in a position to present her illusions to the wider public. Bridget was given her first solo show by Victor Musgrave in 1962 and was held at the Studio One in London. Her pieces from the 1960s are the reason why her name is engraved in art history as Riley’s variety of geometric forms that produce sensations of movement was without a doubt the highlight of her career. Some critics from the time went as far as stating that her art had a tendency to induce sensation in viewers as varied as seasickness and skydiving. Interestingly, many works Bridgit authored depended heavily on the audience participation[3] – this is why her art was often related to the Happenings. In later parts of her career, Riley experimented much more with color than shapes, leading her to numerous stripe painting series. Additionally, the artist also explored the boundaries and abilities of contrast within her work. Bridget was even oftentimes prepared to let someone else paint her piece, leaving her to be concentrated only on the actual design of the work.

Although most of her pieces are based on lines and illusions, Riley also painted many artworks which experimented with shapes in different directions

Richard Vasarely stayed in contact with the modern museum after the royal prize for his paintings
Bridget Riley – Untitled, 1970 – Image via

Bridget Riley and Her Legacy

When Riley was once asked where her ultimate inspiration is usually found, many were surprised by her answer. The artist stated that nature and its wonders are what drives her, explaining it with the following: For me, nature is not a landscape, but the dynamism of visual forces—an event rather than an appearance. Not many saw this kind of comment coming, but it does make sense when one analyzes Bridget’s shifting patterns of forms and changing, optical mixtures of colors. Ultimately, this was not the only thing that separated this painter from the rest of Op art representatives. What distinguishes Riley’s art from her colleagues is the masterful use of gradients and variations in tone. And we do not see anyone overthrowing her in that regard any time soon.

This artist is represented by David Zwirner London, David Zwirner 19th Street New York, Marlborough Fine Art London, Marlborough Gallery Monaco and David Zwirner 20th Street New York.

Bridget Riley lives and works in London (United Kingdom) and Paris (France).


  1. Bracewell , M., Riley, R., Kudielka, R., Bridget Riley: Flashback, Hayward Publishing, 2010
  2. Follin, F., Embodied Visions: Bridget Riley, Op Art and the Sixties , Thames & Hudson Ltd, 2004
  3. Riley, B., The Eye’s Mind: Bridget Riley – Collected Writings 1965-2009, Ridinghouse, 2010

Featured image: Bridget Riley – Photo of the artist – Image via
All images used for illustrative purposes only.

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2017Serielle FormationenDaimler Contemporary, Berlin Group
2016Die Akademie der Künste, BerlinKunstsammlungen Chemnitz, ChemnitzGroup
2016Was das Bild zur Kunst macht. Die SammlungKunsthalle zu Kiel, KielGroup
2016Serielle Formationen. Frankfurt 1967Daimler Contemporary, Berlin Group
2016Bridget Riley - The Interactive Character of ColorJohn Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco, CASolo
2016Bridget Riley: Venice and Beyond, Paintings 1967-1972Graves Gallery, SheffieldSolo
2015Bridget Riley David Zwirner, New York City, NY Solo
2015Bridget Riley: Learning from SeuratCourtauld Gallery, LondonSolo
2015Bridget Riley - The Curve. Paintings 1961-2014De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill on SeaSolo
2015Bridget Riley Galerie Max Hetzler - Paris, ParisSolo
2015Bridget Riley - Prints 1962 – 2015Sims Reed Gallery, LondonSolo
2014Bridget Riley The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, ILSolo
2014Bridget Riley New Art Centre, SalisburySolo
2014Bridget Riley - The Stripe Paintings 1961-2014David Zwirner Gallery, LondonSolo
2013Die Streifenbilder / The Stripe Paintings 1961–2012 Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin, GermanyGroup
2013VibrationsDes Moines Art Center, Des Moines, USAGroup
201212th Rubens Prize Awarded by the City of Siegen Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen, GermanySolo
2012Outside InTimothy Taylor Gallery, London, EnglandGroup
2011Bridget Riley: Paintings and Related Work 1983-2010 Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin, GermanyGroup
2011Paintings and Studies 1979-1981 & 2011Karsten Schubert, London, EnglandSolo
2010Colorscope: Abstract Painting, 1960-1979Santa Barbara Museum of Art, CaliforniaGroup
2010Summer ShowAndipa Gallery, London, EnglandGroup
2009Colour Structure: Studies 1970/71Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin, GermanyGroup
2009UntitledTimothy Taylor Gallery/Karsten SchubertSolo
2008Geo/Metric: Prints and Drawings from the CollectionMuseum of Modern Art, New York, USAGroup
2008Bridget Riley: Circles Colour Structure; Studies 1970/71Karsten Schubert, London, EnglandSolo
2007Bridget RileyGalerie Max Hetzler, Berlin, GermanySolo
2007Op Art Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, GermanyGroup
2006Super VisionInstitute of Contemporary Art, Boston, USAGroup
2006Bridget Riley: New Paintings and GouachesTimothy Taylor Gallery, London, EnglandSolo
2005Bridget Riley: Works on Paper in the Artists’ HouseNew Art Centre, Salisbury, EnglandSolo
2005L’oeil MoteurMusee d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, Strasbourg, FranceGroup
2004Bridget Riley: New WorkPaceWildenstein, New York, USA Solo
2004Art and the SixtiesTate Britain, London, EnglandGroup
2003Bridget RileyTate Britain, London, EnglandSolo
2003UntitledBiennale d’art Contemporain de LyonGroup
2001Bridget Riley: Black & WhiteKarsten Schubert, London, EnglandSolo
2001UntitledFlorida State University Museum of Fine Arts, Tallahassee, USAGroup
2000Bridget Riley: Paintings and Works on PaperPaceWildenstein, New York, USASolo
2000BlueNew Art Gallery, Walsall, EnglandGroup
1999Bridget Riley: Selected Paintings 1961-1999Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf, GermanySolo
199945-99Kettles Yard, Cambridge, EnglandGroup
1998Bridget Riley: Works 1961-1998Abbot Hall Art Gallery and Museum, Kendal, EnglandSolo
1998Bridget RileyGalerie Michael Sturm, Stuttgart, GermanySolo
1997Bridget Riley: Selected Works from 1980 onwardsGreen on Red Gallery, Dublin, IrelandSolo
1997White NoiseKunsthalle, Bern, SwitzerlandGroup
1996British Abstract Art III: Works on PaperFlowers East, London, EnglandGroup
1996Bridget Riley: Gouaches 1980-1995British School at Rome, ItalySolo
1995Bridget Riley: Recent Paintings and GouachesKettle’s Yard, Cambridge, EnglandSolo
1995From Here (Art and Language, Glenn Brown, Alan Charlton, Keith Coventry, Michael Craig-Martin, Ian Davenport, Peter Davis, Mark Francis, Patrick Heron, Damien Hirst, Gary Hume, Callum Innes, Zebedee Jones, Julian Lethbridge, Simon Like, Jason Martin, Fiona Rae and Bridget Riley)Waddington Galleries and Karsten Schubert, London, EnglandGroup
1994Drawing the LineSouthampton City Art Gallery; Manchester City Art Gallery; Ferrens Art Gallery, Hull; Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, EnglandGroup
1994Three New PaintingsKarsten Schubert, London, England Solo
1993Bridget Riley: Colour StudiesKarsten Schubert Ltd. London, EnglandSolo
1993Summer Group Show: Gallery ArtistsKarsten Schubert, London, EnglandGroup
1992Ready Steady Go: Paintings of the Sixties from the Arts Council CollectionSouth Bank Centre, Royal Festival Hall, London, EnglandGroup
1992Bridget Riley: PaintingsGalerie Ascan Crone, Hamburg, GermanySolo
1991Bridget Riley: Paintings 1982-1992Kunsthalle, Nürnberg; Quadrat Bottrop, Germany; Josef Albers Museum; Hayward Gallery, London; Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, England Solo
1990Bridget RileySidney Janis Gallery, New York, USASolo
1990Glasgow’s Great British Art ExhibitionMclennan Galleries, Glasgow, ScotlandGroup
1989Bridget Riley, Works on PaperMayor Rowan Gallery, London, EnglandSolo
1989The Presence of Painting, Aspects of British Abstraction 1957-88Mappin Art Gallery, Sheffield, EnglandGroup
1987Bridget RileyGalerie Konstructiv Tendens, Stockholm, SwedenSolo
1987British Art in the 20th CenturyRoyal Academy; Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, GermanyGroup
1986XLII Esposizione International d’Arte La Biennale di VeneziaVenice, ItalyGroup
1985Hayward Annual, 25 Years: Three Decades of Contemporary Art: The Sixties, The Seventies and the EightiesHayward Gallery, London, EnglandGroup
1985Working with ColourArts Council of Great Britain exhibition: D.L.I Museum and Arts Centre, Durham, EnglandSolo
1984A Different ClimateStädtische Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf, GermanyGroup
1983Britain Salutes New YorkMarlborough Gallery, New York, USAnGouaches, Juda Rowan Gallery, London or the Royal Liverpool Hospital, Royal Institute of British Architects, London, EnglandSolo
1983Bridget Riley Paintings and Drawings 1981-83ishimura Gallery, Tokyo, JapanSolo
1982Aspects of British Art TodayBritish Council Exhibition touring Japan: Tokyo Metropolitan Museum; Tochigi Prefectural Museum; National Muesum of Modern Art, Osaka; Fukuoka Art museum; Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art, Sapporo, JapanGroup
1981Recent Paintings and Gouachesowan Gallery and Warwick Arts Trust, London, EnglandSolo
1979Bridget Riley DrawingsAustralian Galleries, Melbourne; Bouython Gallery, Adelaide, AustraliaSolo
1979Sonia Delaunay, Viera da Silva, Bridget Riley, Galerie BeyelerBasel Art fair, Basel, SwitzerlandGroup
1978The Mechanised ImageArts Council Exhibition, City Museum and Art Gallery, Portsmouth, EnglandGroup
1978Bridget RileySidney Janis Gallery, New York, USASolo
1977Bridget RileyMinami Gallery, Tokyo, JapanSolo
1977British Artists of the 60’sTate Gallery, London, EnglandGroup
1976Contemporary British ArtGalleries of the Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland, USAGroup
1976Bridget RileyRowan Gallery, London, EnglandSolo
1975Bridget RileyGalerie Beyeler, Basel, SwitzerlandSolo
1975Contemporary British DrawingsXII Bienale de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, BrazilGroup
1974British Painting ‘74’Hayward Gallery, London, EnglandGroup
1973Arts Council of GB Exhibition, Paintings and Drawings 1961-73touring UKSolo
1972Colour, D.L.I.Museum and Arts Centre, Durham, EnglandnStädtische Galerie, Göttingen, GermanynDrawings, Rowan Gallery, London, EnglandSolo
1971Drawings, Rowan Gallery, London, EnglandSolo
1971UntitledROSC, Dublin, IrelandGroup
1970Retrospective Exhibition Tour: Kunstverein Hannover; Kunsthalle Berne, Switzerland; Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Germany; Museo Civico, Turin, Italy; Hayward Gallery, London, England; National Gallery, Prague, CzechoslovakiaSolo
1969Bridget RileyRowan Gallery, London, EnglandSolo
1969Marks on CanvasMuseum am Ostwall, Dortmund, Kunstverein Hannover, Germany; Museum des 20 Jahrhunderts, Vienna, AustriaGroup
1968British Pavilion 34th Venice Biennale (with Phillip King) and tour to Städtische Kunstgalerie, BochumMuseum Boymans van Beuningen, Rotterdam, The NetherlandsSolo
1968New British Painting and Sculptureorganized by Whitechapel Gallery, touring USA and CanadaGroup
1967Bridget RileyRichard Feigen Gallery, New York, USASolo
1967Drawing Towards Painting 2Arts Council, London, EnglandGroup
1966DrawingsRichard Feigen Gallery, New York, USASolo
1966Group exhibitionGalerie Aujord’hui, Brussels, BelgiumGroup
1965London: The New SceneWalker Art Centre, Minneapolis, USAGroup
1965Bridget RileyRichard Feigen Gallery, New York, USASolo
1964The New GenerationWhitechapel Gallery, London, EnglandGroup
1964Contemporary British Painting and SculptureAlbright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, USAGroup
1963Critics Choice Tooth Gallery, London, EnglandGroup
1963UntitledGallery One, London, EnglanSolo
1962Towards ArtArts Council Touring ExhibitionGroup
1962UntitledGallery One, London, EnglandSolo
1955UntitledYoung Contemporaries, London, EnglandGroup