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Bridget Riley, Learning from Seurat, Courtauld Gallery

  • The fact that Bridget Riley herself was sitting on a bench chatting to a few people made seeing this exhibition a little more surreal than I initially thought it was going to be, and she had on a very nice light grey and black striped scarf, like she was wearing her own work.


    Anyway the show is all about how Bridget Riley learnt from Seurat by copying one of his paintings, The Bridge at Courbevoie. Her version and Seurat’s are shown together along with a fine collection of Riley’s work.



    Bridget Riley, Late Morning 1, 1967


    Looking at the two versions of the same picture is fascinating. The Seurat has all this sensitivity with its little dots of paint. Like a mist of colour. The blues and greys of the bridge give the melancholic feeling of a misty winter day.



    Seurat, The Bridge at Courbevoie


    Riley’s copy is more workman-like, but it’s not really fair to compare as she was trying to understand his working method and learn from him. It’s interesting that the copy has none of the misty sparkle of the Seurat. The Seurat is exquisite. 



    Bridget Riley's copy of the Bridge at Courbevoie



    However Riley's own pics do dance and distort and ripple and shudder in front of your eyes. They certainly have a misty sparkle. I’m not sure sometimes if you see the colours in her paintings or white vibrating zones. This is interesting given that one of the pieces of blurb on the wall says that Riley is looking at the instability of colour as was Seurat. In that our perception of colour changes radically in relation to the other colours around it.


    Riley also has another picture in the exhibition called Pink Landscape that is painted like a Seurat. Again it’s good but not a cracker. But then there is essentially another version of this work done in her own style with stripes, using the colours from Pink Landscape and that painting is absolutely brilliant. When you look its all hallucinatory shuddering lines and when you stand back you get more of the colour washing and sloshing over you like a crazy waterfall. It’s extraordinary how she excels with her own style of painting but not when she is copying Seurat, which should be a lesson to all of us when we are trying to make art. But she also potentially found her own style by studying what Seurat did - interesting.



    Bridget Riley, Pink Lansdscape, 1960




    Bridget Riley, Ecclesia, 1985 - In Riley's words - "Pink Landscape in Lines".



    Review By Founder/CEO Robert Dunt -