Bridget Riley: Paintings and Drawings 1951–71

Hayward Gallery, 20 July – 5 September 1971

By Hayward Gallery

Installation view: Bridget Riley: Paintings and Drawings 1951-71, Hayward Gallery, 1971. Photo: John Webb (1971) by Hayward GalleryHayward Gallery

Hayward Gallery’s First
Exhibition by a Contemporary Painter

Bridget Riley was the first contemporary painter to have a full-scale retrospective at the Hayward Gallery. This exhibition of her paintings and drawings was also the second largest retrospective exhibition devoted to a British artist to be held at the Hayward. It was organised by the Arts Council as part of a European tour, which travelled to venues in Hannover, Bern, Dusseldorf, Turin and Prague. 

Art Panel Sub-Committee Minutes (1971-09-11) by Hayward GalleryHayward Gallery

Private View Card for Bridget Riley: Paintings and Drawings 1951-71, Hayward Gallery Private View Card for Bridget Riley: Paintings and Drawings 1951-71, Hayward Gallery, Hayward Gallery, 1971, From the collection of: Hayward Gallery
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Private View Card for Bridget Riley: Paintings and Drawings 1951-71, Kunsthalle Bern, Kunsthalle Bern, 1971, From the collection of: Hayward Gallery
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Installation view: Bridget Riley: Paintings and Drawings 1951-71, Hayward Gallery, 1971. Photo: John Webb (1971) by Hayward GalleryHayward Gallery

A 'Deliberately Vulnerable' Selection

Alongside the artist’s black and white optical works and her lesser known colour paintings, the exhibition featured a number of Riley’s early drawings and sketches, including a study of a work by Seurat. The critic and curator Bryan Robertson, writing in the catalogue that accompanied the exhibition, drew attention to the way that the studies exposed Riley’s working processes and illustrated her development as an artist, leading him to characterise the selection as ‘deliberately vulnerable’. 

Installation view: Bridget Riley: Paintings and Drawings 1951-71, Hayward Gallery, 1971. Photo: John Webb (1971) by Hayward GalleryHayward Gallery

Installation view: Bridget Riley: Paintings and Drawings 1951-71, Hayward Gallery, 1971. Photo: John Webb (1971) by Hayward GalleryHayward Gallery

Installation view: Bridget Riley: Paintings and Drawings 1951-71, Hayward Gallery, 1971. Photo: John Webb (1971) by Hayward GalleryHayward Gallery

Installation view: Bridget Riley: Paintings and Drawings 1951-71, Hayward Gallery, 1971. Photo: John Webb (1971) by Hayward GalleryHayward Gallery

In London, 31,257 people attended the exhibition. Reviewers commented on the way that the spaciousness of the gallery encouraged a new way of appreciating Riley’s works, while the security guards inside the exhibition made their own appraisal of the exhibition’s bright halogen lighting by taking to wearing dark glasses during their shifts.

Press Cutting for Bridget Riley: Paintings and Drawings 1951-71, Hayward Gallery (1971-07-23) by Robert MelvilleHayward Gallery

Since her 1971 exhibition, Riley has taken part in many further shows at the Hayward Gallery, including the solo exhibition According to Sensation (1992).

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