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 watercolorists. He came to Canada in 1948 and studied at the Doon School of Fine Art in Ontario.
After moving to British Columbia in 1955, Onley was awarded a scholarship to the Instituto Allende, Mexico. In 1964, Onley won a Canada Council grant to study in London, England, where he studied etching and re-established his landscape roots with the Norwich School of Watercolor Painting. His course helped guide Onley to return to his passion of landscapes he is best known for today: landscape of simplicity and power.
Public collections of Onley's work include those at the Tate Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London England; the National Gallery of Canada; the Seattle Art Museum; the Vancouver Art Gallery; the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. Onley was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, 1999. In 1999 he was also bestowed with an Honorary D. Litt. from Okanagan University College.