British painter, famous for her dazzling abstract canvases that exploit the fallibility of the eye.
Born in London, Bridget Riley studied art at London's Goldsmith's College (1949–52) and Royal College of Art (1952–55). Leaving the Royal College to nurse her sick father, she herself suffered a breakdown and, soon after, a failed love affair. This sadness found formal expression in the intense black-and-white optical pictures she began to paint at this time. After travelling in Europe, she mounted her first exhibition in London in 1962.
In the mid-1960s Riley's exploitation of optical phenomena led to her association with the op art movement originated by Vasarély, and in 1965 she took part in an op art exhibition in New York. Her paintings, increasingly using colour, employed repeated shapes and undulating curves to create the illusions of movement and three-dimensionality, exemplified in Cataract 3 (1967). Riley's work became very fashionable and commanded high prices. In the 1970s she toured and exhibited around the world and in the 1980s produced an acclaimed series of pictures in which her characteristic repeated shapes and curves are transposed into the diagonal plane. She now prefers to concentrate on the composition of her pictures, often entrusting the actual painting to assistants.
From 1981 to 1988 Riley was a trustee of the National Gallery, London, and in 1994 a retrospective exhibition of her work was given at the Tate Gallery, London. She continues to explore the optical effects produced by shape and colour, as in Sapphire (1995).