Doris Ada Riley (1901-1993) lived at Cross Roads, near Keighley, for most of her life. She was a prolific artist and her work was widely exhibited locally, and, toward the end of her life, in London.
Doris studied art at Keighley Technical College, Bradford College of Art, and at the studio of the Silsden artist, Joseph West. She also had received private tuition in oil painting from Christopher Hartley, an ecclesiastical artist, also from Keighley.
She worked as a teacher of commercial subjects at the Keighley Technical College, but painting was her main passion. Her subject range was wide, with watercolour and gouache works including portraits, local landmarks and landscapes, Yorkshire coast, still life, and human interest scenes. She had a particular interest in painting East Riddlesden Hall, just outside Keighley (three examples are shown in this post).
Doris was a member of both the Keighley and Bradford Art Clubs, and her work was exhibited widely across the district and region, including group shows at Cartwright Hall, Bradford Textile Hall, The Bankfield Museum, Halifax, Skipton Town Hall, and at The Queens Hall, Bradford.
She also had solo shows at Keighley Technical College and, notably, in 1975 at the Bradford Central Library. The art critic of the Bradford ‘Telegraph and Argus’, reporting on the Central Library show, wrote:
… Not that her work is flawless. Far from it. Often she seems pulled apart by two sides of her nature. She received training at Bradford College of Art and at Keighley Technical College, and the formal instruction is revealed in delicate, formal portraits. At the same time she is basically a primitive. Badly drawn dogs and children rush about a jolly little park scenes, rather comic ducks paddle across glimmering ripples. Although she lacks technique, Doris Riley is blessed (or afflicted) with that strange gift – the artist’s eye. She sees the colours in water and park bushes which most people never notice. (Bradford ‘T&A’, 02/05/1975).
Doris’s paintings at the Bradford Central Library exhibition were spotted by John Thompson, at that time the Chief Arts Officer for Bradford Council, who praised her work. Encouraged, Doris donated over 30 of her paintings to Bradford Museums and Galleries, who formally accepted them into their permanent collection in June 1976. The images shown here are from this collection (by courtesy of Bradford Museums & Galleries).
Doris often struggled on a Widow’s Pension to buy art materials: ‘A tube of gouache costs five shillings’, she complained to the ‘Telegraph & Argus’ art critic, and her lack of funds prevented her in 1977 from attending the showing of two of her paintings at a major British Waterways Board, ‘Waterways in Art’ Exhibition in London. She said at the time, “I have just had a holiday in Whitby, so my pension won’t stretch to a trip to London, too.”
In addition to painting, Doris was a creative writer and in 1979, aged 78, she was awarded an International Society of Literature Diploma of Excellence for her short stories.