Tristram Riley-Smith worked as a journalist before going up to Cambridge University, where he took a PhD in social anthropology. He spent three years working in the British Embassy in Washington DC. He has since lectured on the anthropology of art at the Smithsonian Institution and contributed to A Dictionary of Classical Reference in English Poetry, Travellers' Dictionary of Quotations and Macmillan's Encyclopaedia of Art. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He is married with three sons.