Bridget Riley may be one of the UK’s most revered abstract artists and a founder of the Op Art movement, but she’s also inspired by the Old Masters the National Gallery is perhaps better known for. As an emerging artist in the 1950s, Riley copied Van Eyck’s Portrait of a Man (Self Portrait?) from the Gallery collection, and she has repeatedly returned to pilfer the venue for inspiration, seizing on the Masters’ use of colour, line and composition.
For Paintings and Related Works, two of Riley’s works will be added directly onto the walls of the exhibition space – Composition with Circles 7, a wall drawing made for the longest wall of the Gallery’s Sunley Room, and Arcadia, recreated on a larger scale than the last time it was seen, at her retrospective at the Musée de l’art Moderne in Paris two years ago.
Riley served on the National Gallery’s Board of Trustees for seven years between 1981 and 1988, selecting work for a major show in the Artist’s Eye series in 1989. Two paintings from the Gallery’s collection, Mantegna’s Introduction of the Cult of Cybele to Rome (1505-06) and Raphael’s Saint Catherine of Alexandria (about 1507), are included in the show at her request.
The “elegant serpentine forms” of the Saint and the “dynamic processional rhythms” of the Mantegna are intended to give a historical precedent to Riley’s most recent large-scale works. An accompanying film in the Sunley Room cinema shows the artist discussing her relationship with the National Gallery collection.
Exhibition opens November 24 2010, continues to May 22 2011