Artist
Bridget Riley
British painter

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Bridget Riley
British painter
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Birth Date

April 24, 1931

svdgrift's picture

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Far before Op Art was even a thing, Bridget Riley already dominated the scene.

Op Art, short for optical art, is like those trippy optical illusion gifs, but made by hand. As you can imagine, they took quite a bit of math, planning, and technical skills. Bridget had it all and inspired a whole new style of art. She said her art was created to make a statement about “absolutes”, it’s just a coincidence they also make you feel like you’re hallucinating. I assume it was also just a coincidence this all took place in the 60’s, when trippin’ (on optical illusions of course) was considered a pastime?  Anyhow, the fact that Keith Moon, drummer of legendary rock band the Who, was spotted in a shirt with her painting only reinforced the druggie prejudice.

Bridget was born on April 24, 1931 in London. Creativity ran in the family, since both her father and grandfather were printers. After attending Goldsmiths’s College and the Royal College of Art in London, it took her some time to develop her signature style. In the meantime, she had to nurse her father who was recovering from a very serious car crash. Until 1962, the work of artists like Renoir, Monet, Cézanne, and Matisse were her biggest influence. She painted a lot of copies and even “corrected” a painting by Seurat. After visiting the Jackson Pollock exhibition at Whitechapel Gallery, she felt super inspired and it had a major impact on her art! While working as an art teacher, she began to explore shapes, lines and light. It wasn't until 1965 that her black and white paintings became incredibly popular. By that time, Bridget was THE “it” girl. She was so popular, all 16 works that were on show at the Richard Feigen Gallery in NYC were sold before the exhibition had even opened! Collectors were put on a waiting list. Oh, did I tell you this was her first solo show ever? But she wasn't just popular in the 60s. Her exhibition in 1999 at the Serpentine Gallery in London attracted 130,000 visitors, the most ever for a show there.

When you’re as popular and pioneering as Bridget, you can guarantee you will get ripped off by big companies. Op Art became a commercial success and Bridget hated it. After the exhibition The Responsive Eye at MOMA her designs were copied freely by graphic designers and fashion magazines (like Keith Moon’s shirt). Bridget once said her “heart sank” as she drove from the airport down Madison Avenue, seeing shops littered with dresses based on her paintings.

Bridget still lives in London and still creates art. She hasn’t painted anything figurative for over 65 years. Why would you if you are one of the top ten most expensive living British artists? She's even a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, which is an honor awarded to an individual by Queen E of the UK. Brilliant!

 

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Bridget Riley

Bridget Louise Riley CH CBE (born 24 April 1931) is an English painter well-known for Op art. She lives and works in London, Cornwall and the Vaucluse in France.

Early life and education

Riley was born in Norwood, London in 1931. Her father, John Fisher Riley, originally from Yorkshire, had been an Army officer. He was a printer by trade and owned his own business. In 1938 he relocated the printing business, together with his family, to Lincolnshire.

At the beginning of World War II her father was called up into the army and Riley, together with her mother and sister Sally, moved to a cottage in Cornwall. The cottage, not far from the sea near Padstow, was shared with an aunt who was a former student at Goldsmiths' College, London. Primary education came in the form of irregular talks and lectures by non-qualified or retired teachers. She attended Cheltenham Ladies' College (1946–1948) and then studied art at Goldsmiths College (1949–52), and later at the Royal College of Art (1952–55).

Between 1956 and 1958, she nursed her father, who had been involved in a serious car crash. She suffered a breakdown due to the deterioration of her father's health. After this she worked in a glassware shop. She eventually joined the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency, as an illustrator, where she worked part-time until 1962. The Whitechapel Gallery exhibition of Jackson Pollock in the winter of 1958 had an impact on her.

Her early work was figurative and semi-impressionist. Between 1958 and 1959, her work at the advertising agency showed her adoption of a style of painting based on the pointillist technique. Around 1960, she began to develop her signature Op Art style consisting of black and white geometric patterns that explore the dynamism of sight and produce a disorienting effect on the eye and produces movement and color. In the summer of 1960, she toured Italy with her mentor Maurice de Sausmarez, and the two friends visited the Venice Biennale with its large exhibition of Futurist works.

Early in her career, Riley worked as an art teacher for children from 1957–58 at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Harrow (now known as Sacred Heart Language College). At the Convent of the Sacred Heart, she began a basic design course. Later she worked at the Loughborough School of Art (1959), Hornsey College of Art, and Croydon College of Art (1962–64).

In 1961, she and her partner Peter Sedgley visited the Vaucluse plateau in the South of France, and acquired a derelict farm which they eventually transformed into a studio. Back in London, in the spring of 1962, Victor Musgrave of Gallery One held her first solo exhibition.

In 1968 Riley, with Sedgley and the journalist Peter Townsend, created the artists' organisation SPACE (Space Provision Artistic Cultural and Educational), with the goal of providing artists large and affordable studio space.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Bridget Riley.