Bridget Riley was born in London 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. Her art, which has been informed by the work of artists as various as Piero della Francesca, Ingres, Van Gogh, Jackson Pollock and Seurat, has always been concerned with these optical effects. After a period of transition in which she introduced sequences of coloured greys into paintings, she made her breakthrough into pure colour in 1967. The following year she was awarded the International Prize for painting at the 34th Venice Biennale, the first English contemporary painter and the first woman ever to achieve this distinction.
Riley's retrospective exhibition, Bridget Riley: Paintings from the 1960s and 1970s at the Serpentine Gallery, London, was timed to coincide with the 1999 BBC Proms season. In 2002 she co-curated, with Robert Kudielka, the exhibition Paul Klee: the Nature of Creation at the Hayward Gallery, London. Further solo shows include Bridget Riley, Tate Britain, London 2003, Bridget Riley: Recent Paintings and Gouaches, PaceWildenstein, Chelsea, New York 2007/08, Experiments in Abstraction, Andipa Gallery, London 2007 and her touring exhibition Flashback: Bridget Riley with The Arts Council Collection, in 2009/10.