Bridget Riley (b. 1931)
Bridget Riley (b. 1931)
Bridget Riley (b. 1931)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTION

Praise I

Praise I
signed ‘Riley’ (on the turnover edge); signed, titled and dated ‘PRAISE I Riley 1981-82’ (on the reverse); signed, titled and dated ‘PRAISE I Riley 1981-82’ (on the stretcher)
oil on linen
65 x 56 1/2in. (165.1 x 143.4cm.)
Painted in 1981-1982
Private Collection (acquired directly from the artist mid 1980s).
Anon. sale, Sotheby’s London, 15 November 2011, lot 32.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
R. Kudielka, A. Tommasini and N. Naish (eds.), Bridget Riley: The Complete Paintings - Volume 2, 1974-1997, London 2018, p. 596, no. BR 236 (illustrated in colour, p. 597).
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent. This lot will be removed to our storage facility at Momart. Christie’s will inform you if the lot has been sent offsite. Our removal and storage of the lot is subject to the terms and conditions of storage which can be found at and our fees for storage are set out in the table below - these will apply whether the lot remains with Christie’s or is removed elsewhere. Please call Christie’s Client Service 24 hours in advance to book a collection time at Momart. All collections from Momart will be by pre-booked appointment only. Tel: +44 (0)20 7839 9060 Email: If the lot remains at Christie’s it will be available for collection on any working day 9.00 am to 5.00 pm. Lots are not available for collection at weekends.

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Tessa Lord Director, Senior Specialist

Lot Essay

A dazzling optical spectacle painted between 1981 and 1982, Praise I is a majestic large-scale work that stems from the revolutionary first phase of Bridget Riley’s career-defining ‘Egyptian palette’. Inspired by a trip to visit the tombs of the Pharaohs in the winter of 1979-1980, these works not only marked the artist’s return to her iconic stripes, but also introduced a set of colours that would give rise to some of her most distinctive paintings. The Egyptians, she noted, used a single chromatic spectrum, comprising turquoise, blue, red, yellow, green, black and white. Back in her studio, Riley mixed her own version of this palette, applying the colours in vertical bands of varying width. The presence of black, in particular, came to define the initial flurry of works created between 1981 and 1982: as Praise I demonstrates, it lends the surface a scintillating rhythmic quality, slicing through the luminous vibrations of the neighbouring tones like a musical pulse. Nearly half of the works of this particular type are held in museums worldwide, including Tate, London, the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie, the Kunsthaus Zurich and the Iwaki City Art Museum, Japan.

Riley’s trip to Egypt had a profound impact on her work. ‘These basic colours were used for everything’, she recounted. ‘For painting the inside and outside of their buildings, for their boats and vehicles, for their furniture and pottery, for their clothes and beads. In each and every usage these colours appeared different but at the same time they united the appearance of the entire culture. Perhaps even more important, the precise shades of these colours had evolved under a brilliant North African light and consequently they seemed to embody this light and even to reflect it back from the walls of the underground chambers which no daylight ever reached’ (B. Riley, ‘A Visit to Egypt and the Decoration for the Royal Liverpool Hospital’, 1984, in R. Kudielka (ed.), The Eye’s Mind: Bridget Riley. Collected Writings 1965-1999, London 1999, p. 110). Having long drawn inspiration from art history and the natural world—from Impressionism and Pointillism to the sparkling light of Cornwall and the Mediterranean—the idea that colour could intersect so profoundly with the very fabric of human existence was captivating to Riley. The present work vibrates with the memory of a long-lost civilisation, where life and art were inextricably bound together.

It was the stripe that had first propelled Riley’s work into colour during the mid-1960s, steering her away from the black-and-white rigour of her early creations and unleashing her oeuvre to the thrilling complexities of the chromatic spectrum. From the early 1970s onwards, however, she had temporarily abandoned the form, focusing instead on curved lines as her primary vehicle. By the start of the 1980s, Riley had firmly taken her place on the international stage, having just completed a major two-year touring retrospective across America, Australia and Asia. As she launched herself into new chromatic territory, the stripe made a decisive return. ‘In the straight line I had one of the most fundamental forms’, she explained, noting that it ‘simultaneously supports and counteracts the fugitive, fleeting character of colour’ (B. Riley, ‘Work,’ in Bridget Riley: Flashback, exh. cat. Hayward Gallery, London 2009, p. 17). In the present work, the cool, unrelenting precision of Riley’s vertical ribbons allows the palette to resonate to its full potential, each band releasing prismatic beams of light as it jostles with its neighbouring hues. As if from the tombs of the Pharaohs themselves, it is an ode to the wonders of human perception, and a joyful hymn of praise to the power of colour.

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