Harry Riley RI
Harry Riley RI (1895-1966) is an artist that you will recognise although may not know by name. Hugely popular and prolific, he was principally a commercial artist, best known for his iconic poster designs of the 1920s-1960s, for the likes of British Rail, BOAC and Qantas.
His bright, joyful and idyllic depictions of British seaside holiday destinations, such as Morecambe, Plymouth, Weston-Super-Mare and Ilfracombe, were used to advertise the British rail network and have come to define Post-War British leisure and travel.
Born in London in 1895, Riley studied at the Hammersmith and St Martin’s Schools of Art. He specialised as a figure artist, gaining commissions for Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason, as well as working as a cartoonist for the Daily Mail. He was elected member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour and, in the late 1920s, president of The London Sketch Club. Through the broad range of the media he contributed to, including magazines, journals, comics, advertisements and even TV, his commercial appeal set the style for a generation.
Although seen by millions, his works rarely sold to the public. Our collection of paintings shows Riley’s iconic style coming through in more personal scenes. We see the artist’s garden and a child fishing, and views from personal travel, such as Lake Garda and Porto Venere in Italy, Sitges in Spain and St Malo and St Servan in France. The paintings are imbued with Riley’s arresting optimism and warmth, featuring bright swabs of colour and heightened contrasts of light and shadow conveying the dazzling Mediterranean sun.
Featuring works in oil, gouache, watercolour and egg tempera, many are signed and inscribed, and dates range from 1930 to 1963.