Born in 1911, Bernard Riley spent his childhood on the colorful streets of a proud, working-class neighborhood in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Bernard Riley spent the first 35 years of his life in Bridgeport, Connecticut, a gritty, industrial city. With no formal training, he first started painting the scenes he knew from the south side of Bridgeport – the rather tattered newsboys with their mongrel dog in front of an old building, the short-order counter or bar lit up in the dark of evening.
Winning acceptance into an open juried exhibit at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1946 brought Bernard joy and disbelief. He exhibited in Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford, cities where the people were well familiar with the scenes he depicted. Throughout the 1950s he won several “best in show” awards at Connecticut Arts organizations. This prodded him toward more competitive, nationally oriented exhibitions including those at the National Academy of Design, Detroit Institute of Fine Arts, the New York World's Fair, the New York Hilton Hotel and the Wadsworth Antheum.