Harold Riley was born in Salford in 1934. His father was a jazz musician and his mother a school teacher.. At the age of 17 he won a scholarship to the Slade and went to study in Florence and Spain before returning to Salford where he has lived ever since. As a student he became a close friend of Lowry.
Riley developed his reputation as a portraitist of many rich and famous people including; Popes, Presidents, and royalty..
He has been awarded honorary doctorates by the Universities of Salford, Manchester, London and Florence.