Winchester Galleries announces a very special exhibition of work by British Columbia painter Toni Onley. For the first time, the artist’s daughter has given permission for a number of watercolours and panel paintings to be sold from her private reserve. Also included will be watercolours, a magnificent oil painting of Boundary Bay and a complete “London Set,” the highly collectible group of 13 etchings that Onley produced in London in 1964.
TONI ONLEY: A PRIVATE COLLECTION will open on July 4th at Winchester Galleries Oak Bay and run through to July 29th.
A multi-awarded Canadian art legend and recipient of an Order of Canada, Toni Onley is best known for his moody, expressionist landscapes of the West Coast. Born on the Isle of Man, he was influenced by the traditional English landscape painters. He emigrated to Canada in 1948, studying first at the Doon School of Fine Art in Ontario and winning an award in 1955 at the Western Ontario Annual show of artists under 27. He also exhibited with the Royal Canadian Academy. In 1957, he was awarded a scholarship to the Institute Allende, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where he studied under James Pinto, whose abstract impressionistic paintings set Onley on a new direction of non-objective painting.
After returning to Canada, there were several important exhibitions of his work, including at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1958. In 1961 Onley completed a landmark 90-square-metre mural for the Queen Elizabeth Playhouse in Vancouver and was one of seven artists chosen to represent Canada at the Paris Biennial. In 1963, his large “Polar #1” painting, which had won distinction in Canada, was selected by the director of London’s Tate gallery for its permanent collection. In 1978 the Vancouver Art Gallery held a major retrospective of his work.
Flying was an integral part of Onley’s professional life as a painter; it was how he reached the British Columbia locations that he painted. He also travelled widely by conventional means, painting in such diverse places as Japan, China, Switzerland, England, Spain, Arabia and India. Although his B.C. watercolours are particularly sought-after, he was a world landscape painter. His last exhibition before his death in 2004 was in Dubai.
Onley’s life ended tragically when a sudden heart attack caused him to lose consciousness and his airplane crashed into the Fraser River. A celebration of his life in Vancouver in March of 2004 was attended by over a thousand people.