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Cecil Riley

Cecil Riley (1917-2015) was a Yorkshire born artist who spent much of his life in London and West Cornwall. He studied at the Slade School of Art, where he met Joan, a fellow artist, who would later become his wife. During his early career his lived in London, working as a sketch artist for British Lion Films and as an art teacher. In the 1970s, Cecil and Joan moved to the beautiful coasts of West Cornwall, where he remained until his death in 2015. Here, Riley became a member of the Newlyn Society of Artists, won various prizes for his work and exhibited across the country, including at the Royal Academy in London.

His work reflects a highly individualized version of the naïve style of various Cornish artists of the twentieth-century, such as Alfred Wallis and Joan Gillchrest, and has a similar two-dimensional quality seen in works by Henri Rousseau. He worked in a variety of media, including oil, watercolour and pastel and his watercolours and pastels are highly expressionistic, using swift, obvious strokes and bold colours to capture the mood of the scene. His oils reflect a very different style, tending towards the abstract-naïve and often depict religious scenes that seem inspired by early Italian painting, such as that of Giotto.

In later life, Riley developed Charles Bonnet syndrome, a deterioration of the eyesight that causes hallucinations in the field of vision. This led to his participation in an exhibition entitled Affecting Perception at the O3 Gallery, Oxford in March 2013, where he showcased various abstract works that had been inspired by the strange shapes that crossed his vision. Like Claude Monet, who continued to paint as his eyesight deteriorated in later life, Cecil Riley was a dedicated artist who enjoyed a long and successful career.

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