Tony O’Malley was an Irish artist. Born in County Kilkenny, O’Malley initially began his working life as an official with the Munster & Leinster Bank. Though he had enjoyed painting as a child, it was not until O’Malley was convalescing after a period of serious ill health that the artist first began to paint in earnest. These early works focused on still life and landscape studies, in which the artist sought to escape from his physical difficulties. Painting proved to be a great source of solace and joy for O’Malley, and the enjoyment the artist gained helped to encourage his natural skill to flourish. In 1955 O’Malley visited St Ives, Cornwall where he became acquainted with a number of abstract artists working in the culturally dynamic area. O’Malley returned to the Cornish town again in 1957, and in the following year retired from his professional banking position in order to focus his attention on painting full time before relocating to St Ives in 1960. In the years that followed O’Malley’s proximity to such an exciting, vibrant artistic and social scene encouraged his work to develop significantly. He began to explore abstraction, an approach favoured by local artists, and his former focus on landscapes became more instinctive in nature. Though O’Malley was inspired by (and well acquainted with) the productive artistic groups around him, his abstract paintings were distinctly separate to those produced in the St Ives community during this time.
In response to the death of his close friend and mentor Peter Lanyon, O’Malley’s work became markedly sombre in the mid-1960s. In the mid-1970s O’Malley visited the Bahamas, where he would live and work for some time, his work and colour palette becoming distinctly colourful and daring in response to the exotic landscape around him. In 1990 O’Malley returned to his native Ireland. A short while later, in 1993, the artist was elected a Saoi of Aosdána, the highest honour awarded by the Irish association of artists. The artist died in 2003, and his work remains in the collection of the Irish Museum of Modern Art.