1946 Ottawa, Ontario
This posed photo of Tinning taken in Ottawa by Malak Karsh (brother of Yousuf) was used in the Montreal Standard’s magazine to document Canadian war artist’s completing their paintings. It along with photos of other war artist’s is the subject of “Brush, Canvas, Paint and Uniform” by AN Werner in the Spring 2012 issue of Canadian Military History.
1947 Montreal, Quebec
This 1947 view of Beaver Hall Square (known since 1982 as Place du Frère André) was painted from 1178 Phillips Place. The Union Jack is atop the former Engineer’s Club (built 1861) – now called the Maison William Dow. In the right background is the spire of St Patrick’s Cathedral (1847) beside the edge of the Architect’s Building (1931) and towering over a group of townhouses known as Tamworth Place.
Tinning rented his apartment and studio on Phillips Place in downtown Montreal. This scene from the front window was his “constant view” which he painted a number of times. A 1954 version is with the Moose Jaw Museum and Art Gallery. This view was one of Tinning’s favourite as he used the scene twice for Christmas Cards – in the late 1940s (left) and in 1950 (right).
Hudson, a town 60 kilometres southwest of Montreal on the Lake of Two Mountains – an engorgement of the Ottawa River near its confluence with the St Lawrence – is a popular sailing area for Montrealers. The Hudson Yacht Club, founded in 1909, inaugurated an Annual Labour Day Regatta in 1947. Hudson Boat Club Races 1947 [Wayne Wright Collection] depicts the event and is cherished by an American of Canadian birth who as a boy learned to swim off the Hudson wharf in the early 1950s.
1947 Vancouver, British Columbia
Chinatown Vancouver 1947, a 15″ x 22″ watercolour on paper, sold by auction at Maynards Fine Art and Antiques, Item #85on May 8th, 2013.This photo from his personal album suggests that it was one of Tinning’s favourite paintings. The four preparatory sketches show the details of the storefronts on East Pender Street. They were a donation from the artist’s estate to the Mackenzie Art Gallery, Regina in 2010.
The Mandarin Garden was a popular supper club (featuring strip tease) during the late 1940’s. Beside it were the store fronts shown in Tinning’s watercolour – White House Suey, Kwong Chai Tong, Lee’s Taxi and at 90 1/2 East Pender the Wo Fat Company bakery store – a popular Chinatown business. (The photo looks south on Columbia to Pender Street. )
1948 Montreal, Quebec
These illustrations were for a travel article published in 1948 by The Ford Times. “Mr. Tinning’s devotion to Montreal as a subject for artists is ardent – he believes that it offers “a far from exploited subject for artists, professional or amateur; that it is one of the most interesting cities to paint in North America.” We think his paintings reflect his enthusiasm.” (Contributer’s P. 64, The Ford Times Vol 40 #8.)
“Campbell Tinning, whose water colours are notable for an extraordinary strength and vitality, an architectural handling of form and a purposeful use of colour, can also exhibit an engaging gaiety and a feeling of movement and rhythm – as when he paints his impressions of music…”“Although he sometimes uses sparkling colours, Tinning loves to work best with low, muted tones. Perhaps this is something to do with the distinctive charm of his Montreal scenes in which he captures with easy, graceful strokes the soft grey mood so characteristic of this city.” [Ref: “Highlights of Montreal – The Graphic Digest for Travellers”, Travel Publications Limited. 1948, Page 63]
1948 Okanagan, British Columbia
In August 1948 Tinning visited his mother who lived in Naramata, British Columbia near Penticton in the Okanagan Valley. He also visited his brother Bob and his young family sketching scenes in the nearby mountains and from “Bob’s orchards” overlooking Lake Okanagan. One of these sketches he turned into a commissioned work for the Canadian National Railways (CNR) titled Okanagan Lake, British Columbia. A reproduction of this watercolour hung in CNR stations across the country – typically in the waiting room. One print survived in Liverpool, Nova Scotia and was found in 2014 on a shelf in the Hank Snow Home Town Museum – housed in the defunct CNR station now renovated to honour a native son.
1948 Lorlie, Saskatchewan
Tinning visited Melville and Lorlie in September 1948 to paint the prairie landscape as part of a Canadian National Railways commission. This eventually resulted in at least five paintings of grain elevators and railroad tracks at Lorlie and two scenes at Melville.
The MJMAG has a 1948 sketchbook with the pencil and ink sketch of Melville and its extensive train yards (lower left). The colour photograph (lower middle) taken at Lorlie in February 2010 is likely the same building as shown in Tinning’s 1948 sketch with horse and wagon (lower right) now held by the MacKenzie Gallery in Regina. Tinning’s sketches and the resulting paintings of Lorlie became iconic prairie works for the artist – one eventually being permanently exhibited at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.
Tinning’s bird’s eye view of this thriving prairie community is enhanced by his notes written along the bottom of the matte. With arrows pointing upwards he identifies (left to right) the: “United Church; Gasoline Station; Long Bldg ie Curling Rink ; Meeting hall ; Chinese Cafe and stores; Station and station storage and station master’s house (above and attic); grain elevator, corral, Melville to Regina Rail line”. On the reverse: “I stayed here with the station master and his family taking my meals in the Chinese Café behind the station. Also stayed in Melville, Sask. 25 miles away.”
Whatever happened to Lorlie?
Lorlie the unincorporated hamlet on Route 10 which Tinning visited in 1948 because it was a “typical and very paintable wheat town” is now, like many small farming communities on the prairies, virtually a ghost town. By 2010 the elevators and most of the buildings had been torn down exposing this forlorn and less “paintable” view.
From an article “Our Neglected Wheatlands” by KM Kritzweizer published in the Regina Leader Post on October 6th, 1948:
“For the past three weeks Campbell Tinning has been out in the fields near Lorlie, Saskatchewan painting right in the thick of harvest. There the grain trucks have lurched across the emptying fields. The tractor headlights have picked out men working long after sundown. Out of the combine spout the chaff has blown a steady golden arch. Man, beast and machine have been caught up in the yearly race of the harvest.”
“…He paints almost exclusively in water colour today but he uses his water colours with all the force and boldness of oil. He is more solely pre-occupied as he paints with time and light rather than the object itself and this sensitivity gives his work a distinct style. His painting is not in the least abstract; he admits this, remarks he may start out with an abstraction and fidgets and fumes with it until despite himself, the naturalistic quality of the object has emerged.” These three works are part of the Tinning Collection held by Library and Archives Canada (LAC).
1948 Montreal, Quebec
Nov. 25, 1948 – letter from the Canadian Legion: “… I acquainted the Trustees with the fact of your making a gift of a picture to the Building. They requested that I convey to you their grateful thanks, and to state that the picture is now hung in one room..”
The Canadian Legion Memorial Building at 1191 Mountain Street was built in the late 1920s. In 1940 the Knights of Columbus opened a Canadian Army Hut to provide recreational facilities and accommodation for service personnel. In 1945 – rechristened the Canadian Legion Memorial Building (until 1960) – it housed the studios of radio station CJAD. In 1960 it briefly housed the National Theatre School of Canada. The painting Tinning donated has never been identified. Perhaps it is still hanging somewhere in this building which now houses the O’Sullivan College of Montreal.
1949 “The Prairies Rediscovered”
The 1949 Spring Issue of Canadian Art published a three page article “The Prairies Rediscovered” written by Tinning and accompanied by a black and white photo of his Station and Grain Elevator, Lorlie. Tinning wrote, ” I believe the prairies offer a challenge and opportunity to all artists, and to those who have not stayed there, a new experience. This is a land that presents the problem of space and light but whose keynote is light.”
1949 Port de Grave, Newfoundland
In the summer of 1949 Tinning travelled and painted in Canada’s newest province. He spent most of August in the Port de Grave area (Dan’s Hole aka Darryl’s Hole, etc.) which was a popular location for other well-known Canadian artists in 1949 (Franklin Arbuckle, Arthur Lismer). His philosophy on painting was expressed in this diary entry from the time: “Best fact: you can see an interest and a reason for painting – not with the symbols and technique which you have used to some advantage before but which have left you “up a tree” without a hope of creation. And you know that picture making without creation is a barren and perilous and worthless thing. The picture is the thing – not the thing pictured. The creation of the picture can be embraced and sought through the pursuit of FORM – and through form to tone, colours, design or pattern.”
In mid-career Tinning drafted a list of his best paintings for a booklet of reproductions. One choice, “Pouch Cove, Newfoundland owned by Ford Motor Co., Dearborn, Michigan” was the cover painting displayed on the Lincoln-Mercury Times Magazine in 1951. His diary entry from Sunday July 31, 1949 when he painted in Newfoundland: “… Did good picture at Pouch Cove. A villager who’d gathered round to watch said: “That’s the best I’ve seen.” Said I, “Do many artists come here?” “Oh yes, every summer – but that’s the best picture of this place I’ve ever seen! That it is!”
1947-1964, Montreal, Quebec
In 1947 Tinning rented an apartment/studio on the top floor of 1178 Phillips Place in downtown Montreal. His neighbourhood included three churches: Christ Church Cathedral (Anglican), St Patrick’s (Roman Catholic); St James (United), three large department stores: Eaton’s, Simpsons, Morgan’s and a bird’s eye view from his front dormer windows of Beaver Hall Square. The area was an artist’s mecca as Maurice Cullen had a studio nearby in the early 20th Century and later the Beaver Hall Group painted in the area. These five sketches depict the interior of his studio. (Tinning notes that the piano was from The Ritz-Carlton Hotel and cost $15 in 1959.)
1949 Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec
Tinning painted this watercolour – as his 1949 Christmas Card – on a quarter side of regular writing paper which he folded horizontally then vertically to create the card effect. Inside is a commercially printed message in red italic script: “Best Wishes for a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year”. Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue is located on the western tip of the Island of Montreal (one of the oldest suburbs of the city) at a strategically important location near the confluence of the Saint Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers. This view depicts a rear view of the prominent Roman Catholic Church amid the small neighbourhood houses.