Opens 17 January 2019
A new large-scale wall painting by the British abstract artist Bridget Riley will go on display at the National Gallery in January 2019. Spanning 10 x 20 metres, the combination of coloured discs will be painted directly onto the surface of the Gallery’s Annenberg Court.
The title of the work, 'Messengers', is inspired by a phrase of the landscape painter, John Constable, referring to clouds in the sky, but might also be seen as an allusion to the numerous angels, harbingers of news, that populate the skies of so many National Gallery pictures.
A groundbreaking influence on the development and appreciation of contemporary art, Riley (born 1931) is one of the most important artists of her generation and has long associations with the National Gallery. As a teenager she copied Jan van Eyck’s Portrait of a Man (Self Portrait?) (1433) as part of her portfolio when applying to Goldsmiths College, London, just after the end of the Second World War. The luminosity of Seurat’s great painting Bathers at Asnières (1884) in the Gallery’s collection became an object of pilgrimage throughout her student years.
From 1981 to 1988 Bridget Riley served as a Trustee of the National Gallery and after leaving continued to support the campaign to retain free entrance. In 1989 Riley was invited to select that year’s 'Artist’s Eye' exhibition and between 2010 and 2011 the Gallery staged her acclaimed exhibition 'Bridget Riley: Paintings and Related Work'.
Bridget Riley says: “I was delighted to be asked by the Director, Gabriele Finaldi, to make this wall painting for the National Gallery in the Annenberg Court. I have been an assiduous visitor since childhood and I have the profoundest affection for the Gallery. It has been a guiding star for me, its pictures like a compass, sources of instruction and inspiration.”
Photo: Bridget Riley. Image courtesy of the Bridget Riley Archive