Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Late, Toni Onley 1928-2004

t.onley: orchard

portrait photo source:
painting source:

Toni Onley was born in the capital of Douglas on the Isle of Man. His father had been an actor and as a youth he studied at the Douglas School of Fine Arts

Toni was trained as a watercolourist and was influenced by the subdued style of English watercolour painters.

Toni emigrated to Canada and lived in Brantford and he quickly established a reputation for himself as a premier artist. Toni moved west to Penticton, and he spent time studying art in Mexico.

After returning to Canada, Toni reputedly became Canada's premier watercolourist. So much so that he is the one of the only watercolour artists to have made his living exclusively from painting. (Readers' comments invited)

His style is noted for his love of subdued, tones. Toni was intriqued by eastern religous philosophy and he came to paint with large Chinese brushes and there is a gentle, almost eastern blurring of strong definition in many of his paintings.

Toni was known as a keen spokesperson for the rights of artists, when he publicly staged a demonstration of burning his paintings, when the goverment considered taxing art.

Toni's paintings sold for top dollar and he enjoyed a tremendous reputation, particularly on the west coast of Canada.

When Toni commented to Prime Minister Trudeau, at a social event, that he would have loved to have been able to have gone to the Arctic to paint, he was granted a place on a Canadian ship as a passenger, and he painted his way northwards.

A television documentary on Onley reported that the crew asked Onley about why his icebergs looked the way they did and didn't look the same when they looked at them. Tony said that it was a matter of perspective and he suggested that they look at them "upside down".

The captain called Toni to the bridge a few days later said to him, "Toni I don't mind seeing you paint, but my crew is walking around all the time with their heads under their **** looking at icebergs instead of working."

Toni loved to fly, and was known as 'The Flying Artist'. He would take off along the coast of British Columbia and fly into interior lakes which were all but inacessible to most artists. The fact that Tony could afford his own private plane, gives some indication about the kind of economic status that painting provided him with.

Toni's life ended in a tragic air crash.
Toni became an officer of the Order of Canada in 1999.

Please click here to be linked to the Toni Onley website


  1. I have come to appreciate Toni Onley more and more...

  2. His works is so simple, so basic, his palette is so limited....but yet he makes it happen.

  3. Nur affinah Mohd affaidiApril 9, 2010 at 6:14 a.m.

    I have study in Canada and i am working in a Hotel part time. I am studying and work also in Canada.

    work and study


Thank you for posting your comments.
ATTENTION SPAMMERS: Comments with links to other websites, will not be accepted.

A message for anonymous posters: Comments will be accepted provided they are thoughtful and articulate.

Reciprocating comments between posters will not be accepted. Sorry - I have no intention of giving readers the opportunity to engage in flame wars. It won't happen.

Fredericks-Artworks Blog, copying policy

The Canadian Copyright act, section 29 reports on fairdealing, that it is not an infringement to reproduce someone else's work for research, study, criticism, review or to report. Which pretty much sums up what this site is about. All content sources, be they artists, printed references, and website url's are respectfully identified on this site. http://http//

Mission Statement
A Portrait of the Visual Arts in Canada, is intended to celebrate the richness of Canada's visual arts, and to promote the arts in Canada.

Statement of Intent
I make every effort to credit the sources of information used in this blog and to obtain the permission and cooperation of all the works presented by living artists. I try, as much as possible to use works from public sources eg. national and provincial collections, of deceased artists. If for any reason, any artist disapproves of anything written about them or their work the artist is encouraged to request withdrawal of the content.