Riley was born at Norwood, London, but her childhood was spent in Cornwall and Lincolnshire. She studied at the Royal College of Art from 1952-55, where she found her training unsatisfactory.

In 1960 in Hornsey, Riley began her frist Op Art paintings, working only in black and white, using simple geometric shapes. Although she investigated many areas of perception, her work, with its emphasis on optical effects, was never intended to be an end in itself. It was instintive, not based on theory but guided by what she saw with her own eyes.

In 1960 while teaching at Croydon, Bridget gained her first critical recognition by having her first solo show.

Bridget Riley’s paintings came to international notice when she exhibited along with Vaserely and others in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, at an exhibition called The Responsive Eye in 1965, where one of her paintings was featured on the cover of the exhibition catalogue.