Bridget Riley (British, born 1931) Untitled (Fragment 1) Screenprint on plexiglass, 1965, signed and dated, from the edition of 75, printed at Kelpra Studio, London, published by Robert Fraser Gallery, London, the full sheet, 674 x 839mm (26 1/2 x 33in)(SH)
Lot 198* AR
Bridget Riley
(British, born 1931)
Untitled (Fragment 1)
Sold for £13,750 (US$ 18,119) inc. premium


27 Nov 2012, 14:00 GMT

London, New Bond Street

Lot Details
Bridget Riley (British, born 1931)
Untitled (Fragment 1) (Schubert 5a)
Screenprint on plexiglass, 1965, signed and dated, from the edition of 75, printed at Kelpra Studio, London, published by Robert Fraser Gallery, London, the full sheet, 674 x 839mm (26 1/2 x 33in)(SH)


  • Bridget Riley turned to printmaking as early as 1962. Her prints served as a vehicle for further research into visual aspects of her paintings and were at times dictated by financial needs. Nevertheless, Riley's graphics have been fundamental in her argument about figure- ground and colour relationships. Riley has produced some of the most visually complex and technically demanding prints and is deservedly recognized as one of the most influential printmakers of the last century. In the following section, we are delighted to offer a selection of exceptional prints that span almost her entire career in printmaking from the early Fragment 1, 1968 (lot 198) to her most recent print Rose Rose (lot 226), produced for the 2012 Olympic Portfolio.

    In 1965, Riley initiated an extraordinary series of seven prints, Fragments. The series originated from unexplored themes that arose in preparatory studies for paintings. Riley experimented with an entirely new material, Plexiglass, a form of transparent plastic. Due to the nature of the revolutionary support, the work had to be sent out to a commercial sign printer accustomed to working with plastic. The printing was done directly on the back of the plastic sheet. The black figure was printed first and the white ground added later to create an image that seems to float within the Perspex.

    Firebird already reflected the next development in Riley's paintings: the introduction of colour as stripes, twists and curves. In Firebird, within a vertical triad of magenta, blue and green, all three colours repeatedly cross each other. The twist destabilizes the vertical stripe configuration and ensures maximal friction between directional colours. Riley uses colour as a structural element and in deploying its tendency to affect and be affected by its context, she visually demonstrates its instability. The optical fusion of colours generates an intense perceptual experience. The viewer experiences the print as a field of shifting horizontal clusters of light which run counter to the underlying formal structure of the vertical twists.

    In the downwards cascading curves of Bronze and Elapse, Riley dissolves the formal structure further in order to facilitate even greater chromatic interaction. Alert to the finest nuances of internal balance, Riley reduces the tonal contrast to increase the intensity of colour and replaces the white ground with a grey background colour to create an ethereal, atmospheric effect. The introduction of the grey ground served yet another purpose. The delicate close-toned curves required precise registration and proved hard to print. At the suggestion of her printer, Riley introduced a grey screen that was laid down last and extended beyond the colour stripes to give a crisp edge to the image.

    In the last half of the 80s, Riley enriches her visual vocabulary with a diagonal element which cuts across the verticals shattering the picture plane. By the end of the 90s, she incorporates the sinuous arabesque. Carnival and About Lilac are emblematic of the fusion of the geometric world of 'zigs' and the curved segment. The grid formed by a repeated vertical is transversed by short upwards- thrusting diagonals and the segmented arabesque. As these forms merge in a complex structural schema, the vibrant energy of the work arises from the optical fusion of bold, intense colours.

    To quote Lynn MacRitsie, Riley's 'understanding of the particular requirements printmaking and the possibilities of the printed image has allowed [her] to create some of the most innovative and technically accomplished screenprints ever made, fitting companions to the great paintings, the continuing development of which they complement so well'.

    Lynn MacRitchie, 'Fragments of a Theme', in Bridget Riley: Complete Prints 1962-2010, p8.
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  1. Suzanne Irvine
    Auction administration - Prints and Multiples
    101 New Bond Street
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