Photography by Adina Miles

Words by Harry Potts


Internationally renowned artist Harold Riley was born in Salford in 1934. Riley’s commissioned painted portraits include: Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Pope John Paul XIII, Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II, US Presidents John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford and Nelson Mandela.

Riley sold his first painting to Salford City Art Gallery when he was eleven

Harold Riley attended Salford Grammar School. In 1951 he won a scholarship to the Slade School of Fine Art, University College, London. Then immediately won a travel scholarship to Italy, followed by a British Council Scholarship to study in Spain and went on to study in Florence and Spain before returning to Salford, where he has lived ever since.

On his return to Salford in 1960, Harold believed his main work was to document the city and his life-cycle in paintings, drawings and photographs. His deep affection for his home town cemented a friendship with L.S. Lowry which began when Harold was a student; together they worked on a project to record the area and its people.

Harold has been awarded honorary doctorates by the Universities of Salford, Manchester and Florence

Harold is famous worldwide for his sporting pictures, particularly of golf and soccer. His golf images are in private and public collections throughout the world. His football pictures have centred largely around his links with Manchester United with whom he played as a junior, before going to University. The club has an extensive collection of his work, but the majority remains in his own Archive.

Riley - Art
Riley artwork

Thanks to Salford City Council, the Riley Archive and Studio has been created for him in a conservation area around the old Fire Station in Salford. Here Harold continues to work and his drawings, paintings, and photographs are housed as is 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.

Most recently in 2017, Harold Riley was given the freedom of Salford, honouring the creative and cultural impact he has made on his home city.


“This is the greatest honour I have received – it is the highlight of my career. I love this city. I love its people.”


Harold with his collection of cameras, housed at the Riley Archive

Harold was photographed at the ‘Riley Archive’ in Salford, where he continues to work in his studio and much of his collection is housed.


Student reflection: Adina Miles

Adina Miles
Student photographer, Adina Miles
Harold Riley - Film
Harold shot on film

Though the shoot was quite short due to Riley’s health it was still a fantastic educational and inspirational moment. I relieved how down to earth Harold was and was in complete awe of the ‘Riley Archive’ studio, natural lighting falling in through the skylights and filled with his paintings, photographs, books and art supplies, it was such a beautiful and inspiring space.

It was difficult trying to tell such a prestigious artist what to do and how to pose, but with the support of my tutor Harry Potts, this overwhelming experience was a genuine pleasure.


Riley double
Harold Riley a proud freeman of the city of Salford
© All images – The Manchester College (unless otherwise stated)


Related links:

Riley Archive

Harold Riley – Facebook

Northern Soul – Riley on Lowry

Nelson Mandela Portrait – BBC News




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