Harold Riley was born in Salford in 1934, his father was a jazz musician and his mother was a school teacher. At the age of 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. As a student he became a good friend of fellow Salfordian L. S. Lowry.
In 1960 Harold returned to Salford, wh...ere he now lives and works. He believed his main work was to document the city and his life-cycle in Salford in paintings, drawings and photographs. Harold often worked with Lowry, painting alongside each other. Long collaboration resulted in several hybrid works signed by both artists, which are extremely sought after at auction. Other collectable subjects include typical city scenes, sporting topics and Harold's portraiture
Riley developed his reputation as a portraitist of many rich and famous people including popes, presidents and royalty including Nelson Mandela and Pope John Paul II. His sporting works include golf (Henry Cotton, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods) and football (George Best, Sir Matt Busby, Bryan Robson).
Painting in in an energetic style, his works are characterized by their calligraphic brushstrokes and staccato placement of color. Along with his commissioned artworks, Riley also painted the streets of his hometown of Salford and sports scenes. His golf images are in private and public collections around the world. His football pictures have centered largely around his links with Manchester United with whom he played as a junior, before going to University.
As Harold Riley normally works by making a series of sketches and notes for each painting, the examples of these preliminary works that find their way onto the market hold a strong interest for collectors and also perform well.
He has been awarded honorary doctorates by the universities of Salford, Manchester, London and Florence. The Salford City Council have funded an archive and studio for Riley in a conservation area around the old Fire Station where he continues to work.
Harold Riley was awarded Freedom of Salford in 2017, and celebrated by exercising his ancient right to drive sheep through the city. Salford council gave him the award for his devotion to the arts, his roots during his 66-year career. In 2009 cover artwork by Riley featured on a special limited edition CD by classical singer Jon Christosin aid of Christie Hospital.