Bridget Riley was born on April 24, 1931, in London. She studied art at Goldsmiths College in London from 1949 to 1952 and at the Royal College of Art in London from 1952 to 1955. In the late 1950s she began to teach art and to work as an illustrator for the advertising agency J. Walter Thompson. Riley’s early paintings were mostly landscapes influenced by Impressionism and Pointillism. In 1960 she began to explore the potential of various optical effects in work that would come to be known, several years later, as Op art. She also discovered the black-and-white paintings of Victor Vasarely.
Riley had her first solo exhibition at Gallery One in London in 1962, and the next year received a prize in the open section of the John Moores Exhibition in Liverpool and the AICA Critics Prize. In 1968 she represented Great Britain in the Venice Biennale and was the first woman to be awarded the International Prize for Painting. In the early 1980s she traveled to Egypt, after which she began to explore the effects of color and contrast.
In 1986 Riley met the painters Philip Taaffe and Ross Bleckner and introduced new diagonal elements into her work. Solo exhibitions of Riley’s work were presented at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1966, the National Gallery in Prague in 1971, and Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge in 1995. In 2003 a retrospective of her work was organized by Tate Britain in London. Riley lives and works in London.