Born in Salford in 1934, Whilst first attending Salford Grammer School. Harold Riley sold his first painting to the City Art Gallery when he was 11. Harold believes the most important part of his career was when he did an Exhibition at The City Art Gallery in Salford where he had when he was 13, where he first me L S Lowry. 17 years old he won a scholarship to the Slade School of Fine Art and went on to study in Florence and Spain before returning to Salford, where he has lived ever since. He has been awarded honorary doctorates by the universities of Salford, Manchester, London and Florence.
His deep affection for his home town cemented a friendship with L S Lowry which began when Riley was a student. Together they worked on a project to record the area and its people, a project which Riley continued until the end of the twentieth century.
Alongside this portrayal of ordinary working lives in and around Manchester and Salford, Riley developed his reputation as a portraitist of the rich and famous. He has painted popes, American presidents and royalty. His sporting works, particularly golf and football, are also very sought after.
Riley’s commissioned painted portraits include Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia, Princess Alice, Duchess Of Gloucester, Pope John XIII, Pope Paul VI,Pope John Paul II, United States Presidents John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford and Former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela.
Thanks to Salford City Council, an archive and studio have been created for him in a conservation area around the old fire station on the Crescent in Salford. Here Riley was able to continue to work and his drawings, paintings and photographs of the city will be housed here as well as his extensive collection of sports studies. A Charitable Trust has been set up called the Riley Educational Foundation, to look after his life’s work.