The Life and Work of Bridget Riley

Bridget Riley got a start as an illustrator working in an advertising agency, J.Walter Thompson.  She found her true calling when she visited the Whitechapel Gallery exhibition held by Jackson Pollock in 1958. Before discussing the impact she’s had in the world of painting, let’s get to know her a little bit better.

Life of Bridget Riley

John Fisher Riley, a printer by occupation and a soldier during World War II, saw the birth of his baby girl, Bridget Riley in London in 1931. She received are education from Goldsmiths College and Royal College of Art. With a burning passion for the arts, she got her first real exposure to the field when she attended an exhibition featuring the collection of Jackson Pollock.

After seeing the collection, she was mesmerized and created art representing the semi-impressionist style using the pointillist technique; dots applied in a pattern. It was really during 1960 when she discovered her own unique style of painting, the Op Art style.

What is the Op Art Style?

The Op Art style incorporates the colors black and white. She incorporated these into her painting to give audiences a sense of movement, vibration and flashing, warping and swelling effects, and concealed images and patterns within it. Using the style she created the painting named Diagonal Curve in 1966, a black and whit painting exhibiting dizzying patterns. Riley’s unique style gave people a new art form to enjoy.

What did People Say About her Paintings?

Viewers told tales of getting strange sensations by looking at her paintings for a long time particularly nausea. Even then, people continued to take interest in her paintings and her solo shows that were held at Musgrave Gallery in 1962 followed by many other shows. Her popularity was steadily growing.

However, in 1967, Riley switched gears and started to use color and a trip to Egypt in the 1980s inspired her to create tessellating patterns, which she created on an oil canvas called Shadow Play in 1990.

Tessellating Patterns


Tessellations designs are motifs that have been around since ancient times. The Romans used geometric shapes and in the modern era these were used to decorate tiles, wall ceilings, amongst others. Riley used her discovery to create the Ka and Ra series that depicted her time in Egypt.  Tessellated patterns during the year appeared on textiles, stitched or printed.

Additionally, the designs appear on motifs called block designs. However, in the 1980s, she began investing her time in creating parallelograms; an example of this form lies in her painting called Delos in 1983. Furthermore, her contribution to art didn’t go unnoticed.

Recognition by her Peers

She was honored by Oxford, Cambridge, and became a member of Companions of Honor in Britain in 1988 and a member of the National Gallery in 1980s. In 1968, the Venice Biennale awarded her with an international prize for painting in 1968. Moreover, in 2012, she was awarded with the Sikkens Prize celebrating her use of color. Even today, her paintings astound people when they view it. Via The Life and Work of Bridget Riley – Optical Spy.

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