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Bradley was born in London, 1931. He attended St Paul's School, London. Bradley wished to be an artist from childhood and when his guardian opposed the idea, he ran away to sea aged fourteen. Bradley served as a cabin boy on the Central and South American run and began to paint portraits of his shipmates. After three years he returned to London and studied oriental languages, literature and art and became particularly interested in the art and calligraphy of China and Japan.
Bradley became acquainted with the circle of writers known as the 'Angry Young Men', and he became known as the 'Rimbaud of Soho' because of his hard-drinking and unconventional lifestyle. Galleries such as Gimpel Fils and the Redfern Gallery began to exhibit his work and in 1956 he joined Gallery One. Bradley's work was acquired by British collectors such as Sir Roland Penrose, Sir Herbert Read and Dame Barbara Hepworth and when in the late 1950s he arrived in Paris, he was taken up by Rudolphe Augustinci, director of the Galerie Rive Gauche, who was notable for showing artists such as Max Ernst, Yves Tanguy and Rene Magritte. Augustinci promoted Bradley's work in Europe; and in London, Victor Musgrave continued to exhibit Bradley's paintings at Gallery One. Bradley's work from the 1950s and 1960s is primarily abstract, with strong calligraphic and symbolic influences.
Bradley lived for some years between Ibiza and Paris, and spent much of 1958 on a scholarship in Brazil. After a personal crisis in 1961, he served briefly in the Spanish Foreign Legion, before deserting and returning to London. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Bradley travelled extensively in Asia and cultivated his gift as a linguist. Bradley is able to speak more than ten languages including Chinese, Japanese, Tibetan and Hindi. He became a convert to Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism 'which changed the whole foundation of my thinking' and has lived in Italy, France and England. Since 1954, Bradley has had more than 130 solo exhibitions and his work is collected world-wide.