Bridget Riley

Three colours (Blue, Yellow and Turquoise) Precipitating Magenta

Gouache: 45.2(h) x 33.7(w) in /

114.9(h) x 85.7(w) cm

Signed, dated and inscribed lower left: three colours (Blue, Yellow and Turquoise) / precipitating Magenta / Bridget Riley '82

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SP 5408



Born London 1931


Three colours (blue, yellow and turquoise) precipitating magenta


Signed, dated and inscribed, lower left: three colours (Blue,

Yellow and Turquoise) / precipitating Magenta ./ Bridget Riley ’82

Gouache: 45 ¼ x 33 ¾ in / 114.9 x 85.7 cm

Frame size: 51 ¾ x 39 ⅝ in / 131.4 x 100.6 cm



Juda Rowan Gallery, London

Karsten Schubert, London

Private collection, UK, acquired from the above



Three colours (blue, yellow and turquoise) precipitating magenta belongs to a collection of striped paintings that Bridget Riley produced between 1980 and 1985. The gouache maintains the palette and structure that Riley developed following a trip to Egypt during the winter of 1979-80; this marked a breakthrough for the artist signalling a new direction. It was sites such as the museum at Cairo and the ancient tombs at Luxor that inspired an Egyptian palette of powerful colours including blue, turquoise, yellow and red, whose brilliance necessitated a return to a simplified formal structure; the neutral stripe. The uniform precision of Riley’s decisive design and immaculate finish enables the uninterrupted interaction of colours and the fleeting visual sensations they create. Like a passage of music, Riley carefully composes colour chords across the canvas, punctuated by accents of black to establish the rhythm and white to provide a pause.


Paul Moorhouse suggests that paintings produced during this period evoke ‘analogies with music in the way that certain formal elements are drawn in to relationships which are variously stated, contrasted with other faster and slower passages, transformed and recapitulated.’[1] He goes on to explore Riley’s work from the 1980’s to the present and its emphasis on relationships between varying sensations: ‘The relation of colour stripes produces discrete areas of colour sensation which suggest a range of other qualities: from density and weight to dullness and brilliance; from closed impenetrability to open airy space; from advancing planes to shallow recession. The composition of the works is therefore additive in the musical sense of individual units being drawn into an experience that unfolds in time.’[2] After this pivotal trip to Egypt Riley abandoned the curve, which had been a formal vehicle within her compositions in previous years, and from 1980 to 1985 she instigated the return of a neutral stripe.


The importance of these paintings cannot be underestimated as they represent Riley’s embrace of sensation. Riley herself provided her own explanation on her new found engagement with sensation: ‘I was beginning to find my way with a whole host of sensations to do with colour. But to start from these as I have in my work since the early 1980s is quite a different thing. Sensations – visual sensations – defy attention, the moment they are focused upon they evaporate; they are extremely elusive things … If I am outside in nature, I do not look for something or at things. I try to absorb sensations without censoring them, without identifying them. I want them to come out through the pores of my eyes, as it were – on a particular level of their own’ (Bridget Riley in conversation with Andrew Graham-Dixon and Bryan Robertson). [3]



Bridget Riley, Achæan, 1981

Oil on canvas: 239 x 202.3 cm

Tate [103816]




Born London 1931


Born in London in 1931, Bridget Riley spent most of her childhood in Cornwall near Padstow in a cottage with her mother, aunt and younger sister, her father being away in the armed forces during the War.  From 1946-48 she was educated at Cheltenham Ladies College, where she was introduced by her teacher Colin Hayes to the history of painting and encouraged to attend a local life class.  Riley went on to study at Goldsmith’s College of Art from 1949-52 under Sam Rabin and then at the RCA from 1952-5 at the same time as Frank Auerbach, Peter Blake, Joe Tilson and John Bratby. 


A long period of unhappiness followed her graduation from the RCA as Riley nursed her father after a serious car accident and subsequently suffered a nervous breakdown.  After a number of jobs she joined the J Walter Thompson advertising agency. In 1959 Riley took part in a summer school in Suffolk organised by Harry Thubron, and met Maurice de Sausmarez, who became her friend and mentor, going on to write the first monograph of her work.  On tour in Italy in the summer of 1960, Riley painted Pink Landscape, 1960, a key piece in her early development.  Having broken with Sausmarez and suffered an artistic crisis, her attempts to create an entirely black painting produced her first black-and-white works.  She held her first solo show 1962 at Gallery One, London and won the International Prize for painting at the 34th Venice Biennale in 1968, the first British contemporary painter and first woman ever to win. 


The work of Bridget Riley is represented in the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The British Council; the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City; the Berardo Collection; Sintra Museum of Modern Art, Lisbon; the Arts Council Collection Hayward Gallery, London; the Tate, London; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Neues Museum, Nurnberg; the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam; the Sheffield Galleries and Museums Trust; The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo and the Sezon Museum of Modern Art, Kitasaku. 




[1] Paul Moorhouse (ed.), Bridget Riley, Tate Publishing, London, 2003, p .22.

[2] Ibid., p.22.

[3] The artist cited in, Robert Kudielka (ed.), Bridget Riley, Dialogues On Art, Zwemmer and Phillip Wilson Limited, London, 1995, pp.79 – 85.

Post War BritishBridget Riley