Bridget Riley

Born: 1931

Bridget Riley CH CBE was born on April 24th 1931. She is an English painter who is one of the foremost proponents of Op art - art that exploits the fallibilty of the human eye.

Bridget was educated at Cheltenham Ladies' College; she studied art first at Goldsmiths College and later at the Royal College of Art, where her fellow students included artists Peter Blake and Frank Auerbach. She left college early to look after her ailing father, and suffered a mental breakdown shortly afterwards. After recovery, she worked a number of jobs, including several as an art teacher, and briefly in the art department of the advertising company

In the late 1950s, Riley began to produce works in a style recognizably her own, and this style was inspired by a number of sources. A study of the pointillism of Georges Seurat, and subsequent landscapes produced in that style, led to her an interest in optical effects. The paintings of Victor Vasarely, who had used designs of black and white lines since the 1930s also had a strong influence on Riley's early works. In her later works, the influence of the futurists, especially Giacomo Balla, can also be observed.

In the early 1960s, her works were said to induce sensations in viewers as varied as seasickness and sky diving. Her first solo show comprised of work in this genre and was in London in 1962 at Gallery One (run by Victor Musgrave). Her work is remembered today mainly for the impressions of movement and colour they give through the use and exploitation of optical illusions. There has been much speculation that a failed love affair was responsible for the seemingly cold and calculated nature of some of these works.

In the late 1960s, Riley began using a full range of colour, after traveling to Egypt, where she was inspired by colourful hieroglyphic decoration. In some works, lines of colour are used to created a shimmering effect, while in other works, the canvas is filled with tessellating patterns. In many works since this period, Riley has employed others to paint the pieces, while she concentrates on the actual design of her work.

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