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Image 01
Polar #15
Oil on canvas

Toni Onley

Toni Onley was born in 1928 on the Isle of Man, where he received his early training and was influenced by the work of the great British watercolourists. He came to Canada in 1948. After moving to British Columbia in 1955, he studied in Mexico, at the Instituto Allende, and in London, England, where he studied etching and re-established his landscape roots with the Norwich School of Watercolour painting.

Known for his watercolour landscapes, Onley often flew to remote locations around the country to paint. He would also fly around British Columbia to teach art classes. He received the Order of Canada in 1999.

Onley was a participant in “Painters Day”, an event organized by gallery owner Paul Kyle, which took place in 1979 at Michael Williams’ property “The Point.” Artist Phyllis Serota also captured that day in her painting by the same title in this exhibit. This event became Victoria’s annual Moss Street Paint-In, which attracts local artists to paint work ‘en plein air’ along the street leading from the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria to the waterfront at Dallas Road.

Public collections of Onley’s work include the Tate Gallery, London, England; The National Gallery of Canada; Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; Vancouver Art Gallery; Royal Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England; and the Seattle Art Museum, Washington.

George Woodcock observed that, “what the artist offers us are natural forms, transformed into images that commemorate their originals yet live in their own light. It is the art of a lyrical awareness transmitted by a hand that wields the broad oriental brush with swift and superb sureness.”

Toni Onley died in a plane crash on February 29, 2004 at the age of 75.