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About The Artist
Toni Onley was killed tragically on February 29, 2004 at the age of 75. He had been piloting his LA4 Buccaneer amphibious plane when it crashed into the Fraser River in British Columbia, Canada, and became submerged.
Toni Onley is one of Canada’s most celebrated artists. His landscapes have always provided a special significance for Canadians in reviving an appreciation for our surroundings. Onley viewed the landscape with an exceedingly distinctive character. His scenes are unpopulated and figures, either human or animal, are absent from his paintings. Toni Onley has taken his place in a distinctive Canadian succession, however, he has done so as an individual, and without any sense of breaking with his tradition.
Onley was born in 1928 on the Isle of Man, just off the west coast of Britain. This location provided him with the perfect setting to develop his talents for landscape painting. Onley loved to paint and draw at a young age, and at 14 he began his formal education in drawing, watercolour painting, and etching at the Douglas School of Art. After World War II, difficult times forced Onley to immigrate to Canada in 1948. He stayed briefly in southern Ontario, where he studied with landscape painter Carl Schaeffer, and discovered the inspirational watercolours of David Milne. Following his move to BC, in 1955, the urge to travel took Onley to Mexico where he studied Abstract Expressionism at the Instituto Allende in San Miguel. While in Mexico, he began to experiment with collages. His collages, shown in a one-man exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1958, launched Onley’s career.
Onley saw Mexico as a “black and white landscape with occasional primary colours” which limited his artistic inspiration. He initially painted a series of paintings in oil but was discouraged with the results and ripped the paintings into small pieces. He discovered their unique beauty by placing them together in a collage of shapes and images.