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Born in Salford in 1934, Harold Riley sold his first painting to the City Art Gallery when he was 11. At 17, he won a scholarship to the Slade 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, 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.