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Born in Brescia in 1941, he began painting in 1974 in the studio of Gianfranco Ferroni, whom he will forever consider his "ethical teacher". From 1983 to 1985 he lived in Paris, New York and Venice, returning permanently to Bologna in 1987.

Tonelli's painting suggests a strong image stability, expressed by clean, synthetic and balanced forms, as well as in the measured display of details. The representation of the metropolis, places where the artist has lived long periods of his existence, does not allow any mention of the story or any yielding to nostalgia to emerge. Every sign, every chromatic variation is reasoned and wisely measured, elevating the image to a clear visual synthesis. Even the Pianura Padana, where Tonelli has established his home for over twenty years, is a theme dear to him, as weel as the horizons on the sea, equally immobile and silent: places of the soul, suspended in time.

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