Tony O'Malley was born in Callan, Co. Kilkenny in 1913. He worked for many years as a clerk with the Munster and Leinster Bank and began painting in the 1940s while recovering from tuberculosis.
O'Malley moved to St. Ives in Cornwall to pursue his artistic career full-time in 1960 where he later met his future wife, Canadian artist Jane O'Malley (née Harris). He died in Physicianstown, Co. Kilkenny in 2003.
From early figurative works, Tony O'Malley's practice expanded to encompass his interest in depicting inner worlds as well as landscapes, and the influence of the leading figures in the community of artists in St. Ives directed him towards abstraction and experimentation. He returned to live in Ireland in 1990, a move that increased his interest in the concept of place as marked by historical events. He travelled frequently, and the colouration and atmosphere of his work is directly informed by his travels - the energetic, vivid colours of the Isles of Scilly, the Bahamas and Lanzarote contrasting with the greys and lavenders of Wexford and Kilkenny.
Tony O'Malley was awarded the Arts Council of Ireland Douglas Hyde Gold Medal in 1982, The Guardian Art Critic's Award for Painting in 1989 and the IMMA/Glen Dimplex Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999. In 1993 he was elected Saoi of Aosdána.
He exhibited widely in Ireland and the UK, with solo exhibitions including shows at Crawford Art Gallery, Cork; Butler Gallery, Kilkenny; Coram Gallery, London; Nordjyllands Kunstmuseum, Denmark; and several shows at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, including a major posthumous retrospective exhibition in 2005. His work is represented in many private, museum and corporate collections worldwide.