Viewing Room: Bridget Riley (British, 1931): May 2023

1 - 31 May 2023
  • The Op Art Pioneer

    The Op Art Pioneer

    A pioneer of the Op Art movement of the 1960s and one of the most significant artists working today, Bridget Riley's dedication to the interaction of form and color has led to a continued exploration of perception. From the early 1960s, Riley has used elementary shapes such as lines, circles, curves, and squares to create visual experiences that actively engage the viewer, at times triggering optical sensations of vibration and movement.


    Riley's earliest black-and-white compositions offer impressions of several other pigments, while ensuing, multi-chromatic works present color as an active component. Although abstract, her practice is closely linked with nature, which she understands to be "the dynamism of visual forces - an event rather than an appearance."

  • Powered by Pointillism

    George Seurat (1859-91), 'The Bridge at Courbevoie' (1886-1887)



    Powered by Pointillism

    A key influence in the development of Riley's mature style towards abstract painting, which developed during the 1960s, was the French Neo-Impressionist artist George Seurat.


    As a young artist in 1959, Riley saw Seurat's The Bridge at Courbevoie hanging in the Courtauld Gallery (London) and immediately set about making her own copy. The resulting work has hung in Riley's studio ever since. Riley has since described her copy of Seurat's pointillist masterpiece  as her "tool" with which she creates her works. Pointillism opened Riley up to the use of complimentary colours and it has often been said that Riley's body of work shares in Seurat's "joy for life"; a simple but radical delight in colour, seeing and it's effect on the viewer.

  • The rock star of the 'Swinging 60's'
    Supermodel Twiggy in front of a Bridget Riley work, photographed in 1967 by Bert Stern

    The rock star of the 'Swinging 60's'

    Riley's work first achieved widespread international acclaim when it was included in the 1965 exhibition "The Responsive Eye" at The Museum of Modern Art in New York. The exhibition featured one of her signature black and white paintings on the cover of its catalogue and as such firmly rooted her work as the leader of the Op Art movement. Shortly after, fashion designers, musicians and trend setters were all clamouring for the 'Bridget effect'.


    Whilst successful from a coverage perspective, Riley in fact became incensed by the media frenzy that surrounded the exhibition. In response Riley wrote an essay entitled Perception Is The Medium in order to communicate what she considered to be a much more cerebral approach than what the press had projected. She also filed lawsuits against department stores and fashion designers who dared to steal her designs for their products. In short, it was important to Riley that it was understood that her methodology was complex, considered and proprietary.

  • "Painting is, I think, inevitably an archaic activity and one that depends on spiritual values"

    - Bridget Riley
  • The Egyptian Palette

    'Songbird', sold at Christies in 2019 as part of the George Michael collection.

    The Egyptian Palette


    Following a visit to Egypt in the early 1980s Riley began to create colours and contrast in her work, in what has later become known as her 'Egyptian palette', producing works which sought to capture the spirit of the country, ancient and modern, and reflect the colours of the Egyptian landscape. In some works, lines of colour were used to create a shimmering effect, while in others the canvas is filled with tessellating patterns.


    As a clear departure from her previous work, in particular her black and white series, the paintings produced between 1980 and 1985 exhibited Riley's free reconstruction of the comparatively unrestricted palette discovered abroad.


    Towards the end of the 1980s, Riley's work underwent change further still; initiating a dramatic change with the reintroduction of the diagonal, which she implemented in the form of a sequence of parallelograms used to disrupt and animate the vertical stripes that had characterized her previous paintings.

  • Available works