Anthony Toney, a noted New York painter whose career spanned 70 years, died Sept. 10 in Marin County, Calif., at 91.

At the height of his career, Toney exhibited regularly in New York, taught classes throughout the New York area, published two books on painting and drawing and completed several large murals for Syracuse University.

Born in 1913 to Syrian immigrants in Gloversville, N.Y., young Toney helped his father run his small grocery. At first planning to go to trade school after high school graduation, Toney, the class valedictorian, received the school’s math prize and instead enrolled at Syracuse. He graduated in 1934 and returned to Gloversville and painted murals under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). He went to Paris to study in 1937.

The advance of fascism was a frightening and ominous specter for Toney and many other progressives. When General Francisco Franco moved against the democratic government of Spain, Toney joined the U.S. Abraham Lincoln Brigade and fought with other volunteers against fascism.

Severely wounded in the Battle of Gandesa, Toney eventually returned to the U.S. in 1939 and resumed his artistic career in New York City. He worked again for the WPA and presented his first one-man show at the Wakefield Gallery (NYC) in 1941.

With America’s entry into World War II, Toney shipped out to the South Pacific as a flight engineer with a troop carrier squadron of the Air Force. At the end of the war, awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and other honors, he returned to his life as an artist.

In his second one-man show, in 1948, The New York Times characterized Toney as “essentially an abstract painter, (who) utilizes a variety of painting approaches in uniting the ever-widening circle of ideas emanating from his central subject matter. … Toney has established himself as a painter of unusual capability and real scope.”

In 1947, Toney married Edna Greenfield, an actress and playwright. On the GI bill, he pursued his graduate studies and received a doctorate in Fine Arts and Education in 1955. He taught at the New School of Social Research in New York City for 40 years.

Toney remained a political activist throughout his life, opposing the Vietnam War, the nuclear arms race, and repression at home and abroad. His paintings often reflected his struggles for a saner world.

In the spring of 2003, the College of Marin hosted a retrospective of his work as had City College of San Francisco in 1998. Toney’s works are in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, Indiana Fine Arts Center, The Chrysler Museum at Norfolk, University of Illinois, New Britain Museum (Connecticut), and at Ohio Wesleyan, Columbia, Brandeis, Rutgers, and Syracuse universities and in other collections, public and private.

Edna Toney died in 1993. Toney is survived by his sister, Margaret Toney of Gloversville, his daughter Anita Toney of Fairfax and her family, and his daughter, Adele Toney of Syracuse, N.Y.

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