Saturday, June 29, 2024

Anthony Toney

A painter, muralist and long-time teacher at the New School of Social Research in New York, Anthony Toney was born to Syrian immigrants in Gloversville, New York on June 28, 1913.

He received a university stipend to study in Paris in 1937. Alarmed by the fascist movements sweeping Europe, Mr. Toney sneaked across the Pyrenees into Spain and joined the volunteer Abraham Lincoln Brigade fighting against Gen. Francisco Franco's forces in the Spanish Civil War.
Wounded at the Battle of Ebro, he returned to New York and worked again for the WPA. During World War II, Mr. Toney served as a flight engineer in the Army Air Forces in the South Pacific and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.”

Toney, who took advantage of the GI Bill to get a doctorate in fine arts and education at Columbia , began teaching at the New School in 1952.  He painted two enormous murals at Syracuse University, one of which, Man and the Universe (above), includes portraits of nearly a hundred scientists and is still on view.

His work is marked by an intellect that looked at the world and saw a complex reality. For him realism was not a mirror of the natural world, but a more abstract idea which included political and psychological forces. His strong aesthetic was influenced by the movements that preceded him- impressionism, expressionism and cubism as well as the foundations of the old masters.

He moved to Fairfax, California in 1997 and, with his beret and sketchbook, became a familiar figure around town. He volunteered at the local elementary school, delighting kids whose portraits he did.

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