1951 Swindon, England
Between 1948 and 1953 Tinning was commissioned by the Ford Motor Company to illustrate articles in the Lincoln-Mercury Times Magazine. Most notably, in 1951, his watercolour illustrations accompanied an article written by Aldous Huxley. The author lamented the decline of many ancestral homes in England after World War II. The Lydiard Tregoze House and Park (St. John Family) were used as examples of the sad state of affairs in the maintenance of England`s architectural heritage.
The Lydiard House and Park were subsequently restored to their former glories and are now a popular community attraction in Swindon. Two original watercolours from the Tinning estate were acquired in 2012 by the Swindon Borough Council for display.
1951 Canadian Bank of Commerce Commission
“We are still talking to the lithographers about one of your paintings for a calendar and we hope to make a decision very shortly.” [Letter, Head Office, 1949] Tinning notes: “The only copy I have of the 1951 calendar of the Canadian Bank of Commerce commissioned by the President James Stewart in 1948… Met him at a reception in Regina – taken to it by Mr. Bastedo (later Lieutenant-Governor of Saskatchewan)… the original is 24” x 30”…the man in charge considered my price of $250 very high.” Courtesy: CIBC Archives, S. Bowes.
1951 Montreal, Quebec
Tinning’s Christmas cards were frequently created from Montreal cityscapes. This 1950 card (at left) depicts a view from Tinning’s rear window of his studio at 1178 Phillip’s Place. The outlines of the iconic Sun Life Building loom over apartments on tree-lined Lower Union Avenue and the roof of the St. James Club on Dorchester Street with Victorian-era iron trelliswork depicted on the left. Below is another version of this scene with the silhouette of the dome of Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral depicted on the left.
1952 Royal Bank of Canada Commission
“Prairie Grain Elevators” was inspired by a 1948 painting expedition Tinning made to a small farming community in the province of his birth – Saskatchewan. His friend Kay Kritzwiser wrote in her column entitled “A place in the sun for Lorlie, Sask.” (The Regina Leader Post, December 18, 1952): “It was recently commissioned by Mr. James Muir, President of the Royal Bank of Canada for the bank’s series of Canadian paintings… He told Campbell that he felt his painting of Lorlie at harvest time recorded the sweep and color of the prairies, which of course it does, magnificently… The September sky has the typical blue, washed to a degree much lighter than the uncompromising blue of July. The grass around the huddle of buildings is gold and dun and the elevators, that wonderful elevator red, stand out against sky and earth in the harsh shape of the prairies.” Printed reproductions of the painting were made in 1957 by Cambridge Press Limited and were widely distributed among RBC branches in all parts of the country, “and many of our managers have written to say how well they looked on their office walls.” (Letter to Tinning Dec. 18, 1957) . This commission had a personal significance as Tinning’s father had been a Manager with the Union Bank of Canada and, after a merger with the Royal Bank of Canada in 1925, an executive with the RBC.
Sketch of a Switch
“Prairie Grain Elevators” counterbalances the red elevators with with a railway switch. The switch has a four-faceted electric light beacon and an oval-shaped wooden “target” at the top. The base is mounted onto two wooden sleepers that extend from the point of separation of the tracks. This preparatory sketch is an example of Tinning’s skill and his professional attention to detail.
1952 Prince Edward Island
From an August 16th 1952 article in The Charlottetown Guardian headlined “Visiting Artist Revels In Landscape Charm of Island”: Mr. Campbell Tinning, Montreal artist, is currently visiting Prince Edward Island doing a series of paintings… He has done water colour paintings of the Provincial Building, the Travel Bureau and old houses along Great George Street, Green Gables, Keppoch Beach and other places.”
His work on the Island was viewed by Yousuf Karsh, internationally known photographer, who praised the work of Mr. Tinning he had seen in the Travel Bureau.
Mr. Tinning described Prince Edward Island as “the most paintable part of the country… The red soil contrasts with the green and blue of the sea… The scale of colours are extremely provocative to the imagination.” He added: “There is so much here for the landscape painter… The Island’s scenery is a more universally beautiful and quiet landscape than found elsewhere.” The Royal Bank of Canada purchased Tinning’s watercolour of the Legislative Buildings in Charlottetown as seen in this 8″x10″ b/w photo of the painting from 1952.
1952 Canadian Club of New York, New York City
“One of Campbell’s oil paintings of Lorlie hangs on the walls of the Canadian Club… in the clubrooms of the Waldorf-Astoria. … [it] catches the station of Lorlie under a September sun, with the grain elevator a matter of blunt highlight and shadow and the railway tracks sweeping into the distance. “I am very pleased and proud that I was chosen to paint my native province for the Canadian Club …” [The Regina Leader Post 1952-12-18]
1953 Toronto, Ontario
Tinning entered two paintings in the 27th Annual Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour Exhibition held at the Art Gallery of Toronto in 1953. His works were listed in the Catalogue as “October, The Laurentian Mountains” ($200) and “Buckingham Palace” ($300). Two other artists had prices listed comparable to Tinning’s work – David Milne ($200) and Carl Schaefer ($250). In 2007 a David Milne watercolour sold for $1,437,500 and in 2014 a Carl Schaeffer watercolour auctioned at $240. Tinning watercolours have been auctioned in the 21st Century in the $200 to $2000 range.
AY Jackson examines “Buckingham Palace” by Campbell Tinning at the 27th annual exhibition of the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour at the Art Gallery of Toronto in January 1953. Jackson referred to Tinning as an artist who had advanced markedly… as evidenced in the atmospheric “Buckingham Palace.” [Toronto Telegram 1953-01-12]
1953 Montreal, Quebec
The London Festival Ballet visited Montreal in June, 1953 at the start an Eastern Canada tour. Four days after the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, Tinning attended an afternoon rehearsal at the Montreal Forum. This Sketch of London Festival Ballet rehearsal 6 June 53 [watercolour on poster paper; 55×37 cm; Courtesy of the Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan] is likely of the Principal Dancer John Gilpin noted for his blond curly hair viz. Tinning’s use of swirls of brownish-orange watercolour to indicate the dancer’s hair. The group travelled with a full corps de ballet and symphony orchestra on its first visit to Canada.
1954 Letter from Alex Colville
19 Mar 54
I suppose I should be more blasé but I was delighted to get your letter. I think I know what you mean when you say you are rarely moved by pictures now (when I see the usual contemporary group show I am usually filled with a sort of ineffable despair – sounds like E.M.Forster) and I consider it a real tribute to my “Soldier and Girl at Station” that it, as you say, roused you from your lethargy.
It’s surprising how rarely a painter gets any reaction to his work – I speak for myself, anyway. Living in a detached region like this I sometimes feel as if my paintings are like stones which I throw into a pond, only to find that there is no splash, no noise, no widening rings, nothing. Of course there is no one here, no painter I mean, whose view or opinion I respect, although there are some able people in St. John. But I haven’t seen any of them for two years.
The “Soldier and Girl” painting is my attempt (my only one since the war) to make something out of my war experience. I have always been pretty disgusted with my war art. The parting scene is the most intense part of war, I think – after that everything about the war tends to be an anti-climax. I am pleased with your remark about a picture being an intrinsic entity – I couldn’t agree more. The trouble is that such a picture is at a disadvantage in any group exhibition, or even in an art gallery at all – it should be somewhere in a house, the property of a family or person and not an institution, so that it will have its effect over a long period of time, and not be expected to reach out and clutch at the passer-by in an art gallery.
If you ever come down this way again be sure to look us up – we’re always at Evangeline Beach, near Wolfville, in July and August. I paint in a room in Wolfville every day. Thanks for your letter.
Best regards, Alex
Ref: Library Archives Canada Correspondence (textual record) MG30-D385
circa 1954 Montreal, Quebec
This small, charming, undated cityscape of Tinning’s neighbourhood in the 1950s shows Christ Church Cathedral opposite Phillips Square, with Eaton’s in the left background and Mount Royal in the right background. The painting captures the essence of Montreal from a geographic, religious, historic, and commercial perspective. Likely painted in the early 1950s (Eaton’s addition was completed in the late 1950s) this scene was around the corner from Tinning’s studio on Phillips Place.
1955 Tanglewood, Massachusetts
Tinning loved classical music and attended concerts in Montreal and listened to live concerts from New York on the radio. This sketch was completed in July 1955 when Tinning was on holiday in the Berkshires The Music Shed for the Tanglewood Festival was built in 1937. The finished watercolour from this sketch was purchased by Cynthia McConnell, wife of John McConnell – publisher of The Montreal Star.
1955 Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Montreal
Tinning created interior designs for the Maritime Bar and the Ritz Café (Archives Canada has five designs) in the 1950’s and 60’s. The hotel also acquired over 60 Tinning watercolours for private rooms. The 2012 renovated Ritz may exhibit some of these works as a tribute to the artist and his historic connection to the hotel.
Île d’Orléans In October 1955 Tinning had a solo exhibition in the Silver Room of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. This sketch of a hexagonal barn was reworked into a finished watercolour which sold at the Ritz Exhibition. From The Gazette Nov. 12, 1955: “Barn on the Island of Orleans” odd in shape with red doors, three white calves, a woman and a cart and a glimpse of the St. Lawrence is an interesting subject…”
1956 Okanagan, British Columbia
Tinning wrote and illustrated a two page travel article on the Okanagan area of British Columbia for a Ford Motor Company which was published in the September-October 1956 issue of an “in house” magazine called the Lincoln – Mercury Times. On the cover (seen at right) is a watercolour of a camp fire on the shores of Lake Okanagan with Naramata Bench in the background. Tinning’s association with Ford started in 1948 when he illustrated an article on the city of Montreal and continued for twelve years ending with this illustrated 1956 article.
1957 Montreal Quebec
A whimsical bright abstract design on a piece of masonite… snowflakes?
1958 Montreal, Quebec
“Montreal has never seemed to me a big city. When I came here 20 years ago, its population was under the million mark and not everyone had a car. I certainly had none and was used to walking with my “paint bag” – water and brushes , a supply of paper and an easel – all over the older parts of the town. You could leave of a spring morning and walk in any direction to encounter squares and streets filled and lined with trees. The sidewalks would be red with fallen maple flowers and the leaves would change from pink to lettuce to deep green glistening and sparkling on huge old black trunks showing what a month before had raised, bare lacy patterns against a late snow storm. One could walk to Beaver Hall Square where the old Riordon Houses stood. In the centre of the Square was an island of elm trees. The Houses and all the trees were destroyed to widen Dorchester Street a few years ago. Such is progress, I suppose.
But “progress” has taken its peculiarly insensitive toll. Old houses in themselves not works of art perhaps, but unique in their decorations, have been “modernized”. False fronts of doubtful and transient taste are stuck on old structures and there is no authority to combat this insensitivity. Structures look like huge boxes against the sky.
The heads of big business, seeing only one way, decide that projects such as Place Ville Marie, will make the city into a new New York . A building is being erected in the centre of the city that will… disrupt the proportions of a city with a unique beauty and one of the most beautiful sites in the world.” (Transcription courtesy of R.E. Barron.)
These photographs were taken by Tinning near his apartment and studio at 1178 Rue Phillips Square. The area, central to his life and art, had become a barren cityscape, and his scene had changed. He moved on to another scene.
This 1958 “Christmas Jolly” card, a watercolour on paper (10.5 x 15.5 cm), was one of Tinning’s more whimsical designs. Christmas was a time of joyful celebration and he always enjoyed the season the challenge being to design and fabricate a unique card to send to his family and friends. This is a prime example of such a card.
1959 Montreal, Quebec
This watercolour/pencil sketch is of Tinning’s rented atelier near Phillips Square. Pencilled on the border: “My studio about 1959. Piano sold to me by Ritz-Carlton for $15. Yellow covered chair (used for) studio demonstration.”
1959 McGill University
Tinning painted these six buildings on (or near) the McGill University campus in downtown Montreal. Upper left is of the Arts Building which was built in 1837 and an architectural icon of the Faculty of Arts. The building dates from 1837. Upper right is the Macdonald Engineering Building . The Strathcona Medical Building – left – is now the Strathcona Anatomy and Dentistry Building. Below – left to right – the Macdonald Physics Building (Ernest Rutherford worked here in the early 1900’s); the Redpath Library; and the statue of Queen Victoria in front of the Royal Victoria College (now the School of Music). These watercolours in grey and black were commissioned by The Graduates’ Society of McGill University – likely in 1959 – for use on Society greeting cards. In a few prints (such as the Arts Building and the Macdonald Engineering Building paintings seen here) Tinning added a touch of red to the figures – his whimsical tribute to one of McGill’s official “colours”.
1959 Eastern Townships, Quebec
July was when Campbell Tinning enjoyed time away from his urban studio in Montreal. His favourite retreat was the Glenbrook – a family run farm/hotel – on Sargent’s Bay in the Eastern Townships. He and Johnny went there every summer for two decades.
The figure resting in the sun in this 1959 watercolour appears to be Johnny Maciuk, Tinning’s friend and house mate for many years. They lived in the Linton Apartment building at 1509 Sherbrooke Street West near Guy in Montreal where Tinning had his studio for the last 25 years of his life. This scene is likely on the shores of Lake Memphremagog in the Eastern Townships southeast of Montreal.
1950s or 1960s Geometric Designs
These untitled, undated, full-page (6″x8″) blue ink on white paper designs and figures from a coil-bound “Strathmore Alexis Drawing” sketchbook are drawn on the first six pages of the 24 page sketchbook. The last four entries are full page watercolour sketches of tropical trees and beach umbrellas – the last page annotated by the artist as “Round Hill”. As Tinning is known to have visited Round Hill (Jamaica) at least four times during the 1950s and 1960s it is likely that these designs and figures were drawn sometime in these decades. Tinning usually dated and/or identified his sketches but inexplicably he neglected to explain these attractive and unusual ink designs. As they appear consecutively on the pages of the sketchbook they were likely done at the same time. Aside from a display of skill, sketches such as these, allow insight into the artist’s imagination. Here are examples of his interest in graphic design (sketches #2 and #6 – counting left to right, top to bottom); costume design (#1 and #3); a Nativity scene(sketch #4) and ostensibly a set design viz. figure stands on a stage (sketch #5).
The Moose Jaw Museum and Art Gallery has 17 Tinning sketchbooks dating from 1938 to 1982 filled with a large variety of his sketches, designs, and “doodles” in pencil, ink, pastel, crayon and watercolours – a few can be seen at the MJMAG Virtual Museum.