Chain Rock, St. John’s 1943-2017

Chain Rock is on the Battery (city) side of the narrow entrance to St. John’s Harbour opposite Pancake Rock 174 metres away. As early as 1770 a defensive chain was stretched between both rocks at nightfall to prevent entry of enemy ships. In World War I the chain was replaced with anti-submarine nets. In World War II each side (designated as Fort Chain Rock and Fort Amherst) had camouflaged anti-naval and anti-aircraft defences. From Tinning’s Diary: “Wed 25 Aug 43 In morning did work cleaning up stuff til 10:30 – reports etc. – car then for Chain Rock. Did a w-c of one of the 75 mm guns and gunners. [CWM #19710261-5575] No good. Lunch at Chain Rock.

75 mm Gun, St. John’s Newfoundland 1943; watercolour on paper; 38.5×50.7 cm; CWM 19710261-5575; Photo Dec. 2017 by Tinning’s grand-nephew.

From Tinning’s Diary: “Mon 30 Aug 43 Shot rifle out on rocks with Ron and Sergeant Major Lasson – hell of a cold I have. Lunch. In afternoon did some work on the “Pay Parade” picture. Did a sketch of Machine Gun position point No. 2 gun – and other sketches.” [One of these sketches is seen below as CWM# 19710261-5623.]

Fort Chain Rock 1943; sketch drawing; coloured pencil on paper; 25.2×32.8 cm; CWM 19710261-5623; Photo from December 2017

Tinning Christmas Card 1950

“From My Window” Christmas Card 1950; watercolour on paper; 15.6×13  cm ; Courtesy: MJMAG

This is a view of the Montreal skyline from the rear window of Tinning’s atelier/apartment at 1178 Phillips Place where he lived during the 1950s. In the distance is the soaring hulk of the Sun Life Building. Tinning never tired of this cityscape and drew it many times throughout the four seasons. The Moose Jaw Museum and Art Gallery (MJMAG) has two watercolour variations of this scene.

1st Canadian Parachute Battalion

In February 1944 Tinning observed a training exercise by the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion on Salisbury Plain. Conducted to simulate an invasion of Normandy the Canadian paratroopers were dropped wearing full gear alongside metal containers packed with mortars and ammunition. The object of the exercise was to drop 500 paratroopers with supplies and have the drop zone cleared of men, supplies and parachutes within fifteen minutes. One particular difficulty involved gathering up the parachutes that had become fouled in trees. The three paintings below show a progression of events as Tinning (an official army war artist) recorded them for posterity. At left – a paratrooper opens a container on the field; in the centre is a preparatory sketch of a container parachute fouled in a tree; and on the right is a “finished” oil painting of the scene. These works are in the Tinning fonds at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) and the Canadian War Museum (CWM) in Ottawa.

Italian “Fascist” War Memorial

In October 1944 Tinning sketched a  “Fascist Statue” in Santarcangelo di Romagna. In fact, he sketched the Monumento ai Caduti (War Memorial) in the Piazza Ganganelli (modern photo at right) . Created and cast in bronze by Italian sculptor Bernardino Boifava between 1925 and 1928 this memorial depicts a dead soldier lying on a shield carried by two grieving women. Designed as a tribute to Italian soldiers who died fighting (with the Allies) in World War I this statue had become in World War II a symbol of Mussolini’s regime.

San Arcangelo, 1st Canadian Division 18 Oct 44; watercolour, pencil on grey paper; 37.8×27.6 cm; LAC 1990-143-80


Fascist Statue, 18 Oct 44; watercolour, pencil on grey paper; 27.8×37.9 cm; LAC #1990-143-73


From Tinning’s diary: “31 Oct 44 The monument caused some consternation among other artists. I had only looked at it as a good subject (draped in the Italian flag).”

“Montreal 1940” and “Untitled Farmhouse” recto/verso

On the lower left of “Montreal 1940” Tinning notes the location as: “Back of Ben’s Delicatessen“. This Montreal landmark restaurant occupied the corner of Mansfield Street and Burnside Street in 1940. [It moved to the corner of Metcalfe and Burnside in 1949.] On the verso is an untitled painting believed to be the farmhouse of Tinning’s cousin Cyrus L. Merriam in Brattleboro, Vermont with whom he visited in 1938 during his training at the Eliot O’Hara School of Watercolor in Goose Rocks Beach, Maine.

Montreal Scene 1940; watercolour on paper; 38 x 47.5 cm

Untitled Farmhouse (likely Brattleboro, Vermont) undated and unsigned watercolour on paper; 38×47.5 cm (verso of “Montreal 1940”)