Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Day Auction


Bridget Riley
signed and dated '90 on the right side edge; signed, titled, dated 1990 and variously inscribed on the overlap; signed, titled, dated 1990 and variously inscribed on the stretcher
oil on linen
165 by 227cm.; 65 by 89 3/8 in.
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Galerie Beyeler, Basel
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner


Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Bridget Riley, 1993, n.p., no. 11, illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

Danae is a masterpiece of Bridget Riley’s later oeuvre: a magnificent exercise in the power of the diagonal and a glorious celebration of the potential of colour relations. A vibrant conjunction of warm chromatic tones combines in a rigidly geometrical framework to form a painting of graceful complexity, whilst epitomising Riley’s major creative concerns and ideals. Danae dates from a crucial point of Riley’s career, following the artist’s discovery of the diagonal as opposed to the vertical during the second half of the 1980s as part of a ceaseless quest to achieve an ever more distinctive creative language. The strongly elongated direction of the diagonal ‘lozenges’ ensures that Danae appears to dance with inherent sensations of movement and light, imbuing the painting with an extraordinary dynamism and energy. Riley has stated that, “I don’t paint light. I present a colour situation which releases light as you look at it” (the artist, cited in an interview with Robert Kudielka in: Robert Kudielka, Robert Kudielka on Bridget Riley, Essays and Interviews 1972-2003, London, 2005, p.23). The artist’s declaration is indicative of the immense importance of the viewer’s role: Riley encourages us to see in an entirely different way, ensuring that each spectator’s impression of Danaeis entirely unique and personal.

 Riley has been strongly influenced by the colours and patterns found within nature throughout her career, utilising her own experiences of her surroundings. The use of verdant greens alongside earthy reds and oranges and shades of marine blue within Danae arguably references the inspiration of the environment, creating a glorious kaleidoscope of naturalistic colour tones. Riley also appears to have made reference to mythological influences through the title of the work, evoking the ancient Greek tale of Danae. The daughter of King Acrisius and Queen Euridice, Danae has been immortalised by artists throughout the centuries due to the existence of a legend in which Zeus descends on Danae disguised as a shower of gold, resulting in the birth of their half-divine son, Perseus. The bright yellow and warm gold tones that recur within Danae can arguably be read as alluding to Zeus in his fantastical guise, allowing Danae to be viewed as a contemporary interpretation of a classical myth. In its astounding technical and magisterial exploitation of the diagonal, Danae presents a captivating and carefully curated surge of colour with which the viewer is drawn to engage.

Contemporary Art Day Auction