Inaugurated in 1847, Bonsecours Market is an iconic building situated in the heart of Old Montreal near the harbour and close the city’s main east-west thoroughfare – Notre Dame Street. Having served for one year as the Parliament House of a United Canada and as Montreal’s City Hall for twenty five years the building represents one of the most important historical sites in the country. In the 21st Century it has been repurposed to house shops and boutiques to become a major tourist magnet in this part of Montreal. Tinning painted this scene in 1939 when Bonsecours was the chief public market for fresh produce and meat brought in daily by farmers from the surrounding countryside.
Access to Bonsecours became problematic as the city expanded from the narrow, harbour streets around the Market. Gosford Street tunnel built in 1931 under Notre Dame Street allowed easier access to Bonsecours and went under the turreted east wing of the Château Ramezay – as seen in the painting below. [The tunnel was closed over in 1998]. The mansard roof of Montreal City Hall is seen in the background.
One of the first cityscapes that Tinning painted after he moved to Montreal is a row of four Victorian townhouses on “Beaver Hall Square”. Built in 1863 by James Ferrier – merchant and former Mayor of the city – for his four children and named Tamworth Place this row of elegant homes on the east side of Beaver Hall Square had been transformed into residential/commercial properties by 1939. Tinning added a note on the lower left of this painting (below) “Riordan Houses” – a family name associated with the pulp and paper industry in Canada. “Riordon Sales Corp Ltd ” is listed in Lovell’s Directory (1937-38) as a tenant at 1163 Beaver Hall Square. Of particular interest to art lovers is that between 1937 and 1940 Lovell’s lists “F Brandtner” and the “Children’s Art Centre” as tenants at 1154 Beaver Hall Square – likely the entrance furthest left in this painting seen below. Franz Brandtner – artist and teacher – moved in here after one of the founder’s of the Children’s Art Centre, Dr. Norman Bethune, left for Spain. Lovell’s 1936-37 edition lists “Bethune, Herman M.D.” as a tenant at 1154 Beaver Hall Square.
In 1982 Beaver Hall Square was renamed Place du Frère-André in honour of the recently beatified Canadian saint, André Bessette (Brother Andre). The Tamworth Place townhouses were subsequently demolished to make way for a highrise office building and the immediate geographic area is currently undergoing a new planning process.
In the late 1960s Tinning explored his new neighbourhood looking for inspiration and experimenting with various genre, styles and media. This undated work likely from the late 1960s is in the immediate area of his new studio/residence in “The Linton” on Sherbrooke Street West in Montreal. It is a view looking across Cote des Neiges Road to a confectionary store a few doors north of Sherbrooke. Tinning’s studio window looked directly down on this street and “The Cake Shoppe” at 3415 Cote des Neiges (on the east side of the street) was a popular place for Montrealers to buy tasty desserts during the 1960s. This impressionistic style is a departure from Tinning’s figurative realism and displays originality and versatility with his much favoured watercolour medium.
Tinning recounts his maternal grandmother’s (Nanny) story from colonial Jamaica: “One night, before she met my Grandfather she dreamt of a tall man, with a crooked nose, dressed in a scarlet coat. They were at a ball and, after dancing, they went out on the piazza where he proposed to her. The dream was so vivid that she remembered it well. A few nights later she was at a party. She had brought her music and was singing “Kathleen Mavourneen” when the guests of honor arrived. At the song’s end she turned around and there was the man of her dreams, crooked nose and all! She felt rather faint…” She was revived with smelling salts from a Victorian cut glass bottle which she retained and which Tinning inherited and treasured throughout his life. He also visited Jamaica three times during the 1950s – as evident from the paintings below.