Bridget Riley was born in London, England and spent her childhood in Cornwall and Lincolnshire. She was educated at Cheltenham Ladies’ College. She studied art first at Goldsmiths College (1949–1952), and later at the Royal College of Art (1952–1955), where her fellow students included artists Peter Blake and Frank Auerbach. Her early work was figurative with a semi-impressionist style. 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.
During her early career, Riley worked as an art teacher from 1957-58 at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Harrow now ‘The Sacred Heart Language College’ then at Loughborough School of Art in 1959, then at the Hornsey School of Art, and from 1962-1964 at the Croydon School of Art. She also worked as an illustrator for the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency prior to giving it up in 1964.
Riley lived and worked with fellow Op Artist Peter Sedgley during the latter half of the 1960s. Together they created the artists’ organization SPACE, with the goal of providing artists large and affordable studio space.