1940 Montreal, Quebec

Tinning at work

GC Tinning at work 1941

1941 Display Department, Robert Simpson Ltd

1941 Display Department, Robert Simpson Ltd

In 1940 Tinning was hired by The Robert Simpson Montreal Limited as a graphic artist. He became Head of the Display Department. This photo and watercolour are of his workplace in a room of a house on Metcalfe Street located behind the Ste. Catherine Street store.

1941 Trenton, Ontario

Observation Tower Trenton 1941(Tinning watercolour and b/w photo)

(left) Observation Tower Trenton LAC # 1992-661-11 w-colour on paper; (right) b/w photo 1941

In July 1941 Tinning requested and received special permission from the Canadian military to paint scenes at the Royal Canadian Air Force Base in Trenton, Ontario. “The reason I undertook the expedition was in hopes that the Government might have under consideration the formation of a permanent record of our war effort. As the war activities are so widespread in Canada, paintings by commissioned artists could be of great interest to the public… I am very eager to be of service and would of course be happiest if it were possible to use my talents as a painter.” [letter to HO McCurry, Director, The National Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario, January 28th, 1942] As a result of this two week expedition Tinning produced a dozen watercolours. The “Observation Tower Trenton Air Station” seen above is in the Library and Archives Canada collection. (Credit: b/w photo: No. 2) . A second painting won the $150 Jessie Dow Prize at the Art Association of Montreal 59th Annual Spring Exhibition in 1942. “Campbell Tinning wins the watercolor award with “Runway at Trenton, Ont. Air Station” – with glimpses of planes, buildings and white clouds which make an effective pattern.” [The Gazette 1942-05-02]

Airstrip at R.C.A.F. Base Trenton 1941; w-c on paper; 39.1 x 57.1 cm; LAC #1990-143-8

Airstrip at R.C.A.F. Base Trenton 1941; w-c on paper; 39.1×57.1 cm; Credit: LAC Acc. 1990-143-8

1941 Montreal, Quebec

A Montreal cityscape of a Victorian mansion painted in 1941 when Tinning lived in a nearby apartment on Summerhill Avenue reveals the natural charm of the city at that time. Today, the mansion and the original tree are long gone but the site maintains its charm with new trees dwarfed (but not overwhelmed) by Le Regency luxury apartment tower (built in 1965 – Peter Dickinson architecture?) at 3555 Chemin de la Côte-des-Neiges (Road) – a major thoroughfare leading north from Sherbrooke Street West (Ouest) up and over the side of Mount Royal (Mont Royal) . All this is in sight of Le Linton (The Linton) condominium/apartments where Tinning lived and worked for the last thirty years of his life. This montage is a tribute to the artist, the city and the era.

House at the corner of Cote-des-Neiges and Summerhill Avenue, Montreal 1941

House at the corner of Cote-des-Neiges and Summerhill Avenue, Montreal 1941; watercolour on paper; 56 x 39 cm


Tinning, Jan 1942 in his Summerhill Ave. apartment

Comment: This painting is of my old home from 1944-1954 when Summerhill House was an orphanage. Would love to see more of this. Reply: This painting is not of the Montreal Children’s Orphanage (24 Summerhill) which was a larger 5 storey structure. The Victorian style mansion in Tinning’s painting is three storeys. On the matte of the painting Tinning notes the location of the mansion as Summerhill at Cote-des-Neiges – presumably next to the orphanage. The artist rented an apartment nearby at 1536 Summerhill from the end of 1941 until he joined the army in June 1942. In the late 1960s he moved into The Linton apartments a block south on Sherbrooke Street West.

1942 St Jean, Quebec

Black Watch Training Camp St. John’s Quebec 1942; w-c on paper; 15″x21″

On 22 Jun 42 Tinning enlisted as a private in the 2nd Battalion, The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada in Montreal at the Bleury Street Armoury and then was sent to St. John’s (St Jean) Quebec for basic training in July where he completed this painting of army bell tents. The Black Watch Regimental Museum in Montreal has Tinning memorabilia including his labeled Barrack Box “HC7452/5”.

Pte GC Tinning 1942

1941 – 42 Montreal, Quebec

Tinning became a member of the Canadian Society of Graphic Art. The 1941 work shown below was appraised at $20 – according to an official seal on the reverse.

1942 Camp Sussex, New Brunswick

James Alastair Grant Campbell 1942; pastel on paper; 14" x 18" Courtesy: Dr. Alexander V. Campbell

James Alastair Grant Campbell 1942; pastel on paper; 14″ x 18″. Thank you to Dr. Alexander V. Campbell for letter and photo reproduction of his uncle’s portrait.

“I have a pastel portrait that Mr. Tinning did of my uncle, who was in the Black Watch, at Camp Sussex, N.B. sometime in 1942… My uncle sent the portrait home to his parents and it hung in their house all through the war. He gave it to me in the late 1990s… My uncle was James Alastair Grant Campbell. He enlisted with the Black Watch but went overseas with the Royal Canadian Engineers… The price [for the portrait] was a beer in the Men’s Mess… My uncle went back to school after the war, earned his law degree from UBC… and became an MP… He had a good eye for art and artists…”

1942 “Gershwin An American in Paris”

Gershwin An American in Paris 1942; Watercolour on heavy paper; 24 x 39 cm

Gershwin An American in Paris 1942; Watercolour on heavy paper; 24 x 39 cm

This ‘quick study’ was inspired by George Gershwin’s symphonic poem. Tinning enjoyed music and often attended concerts and symphonies. Throughout his life he was inspired by (mostly classical) music to paint a quick study. Note: The Mendel Gallery in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan has twenty-five Tinning “Paint to Music” watercolour sketches painted between 1938 and 1964.

1942 Halifax, Nova Scotia

Campbell Tinning designed his own Christmas Cards – frequently an ink drawing on paper, copied/Xeroxed, and highlighted by hand in watercolour. Occasionally the subject matter was frivolous as in this example from 1942.

Inside this card he has written: “To You All. Every Best Wish for Christmas and the New Year. Campbell. HQ 2nd Bn The Black Watch (RHR) Halifax Nova Scotia” . In civilian lingo this identifies Tinning as with Headquarters, 2nd Battalion, The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment).

Diary entry: Fri 25 Dec 42
“At 0200 hell was raised – shoes thrown about, beds dumped… Russ and Walt beat the drums and I a tom-tom as we serenaded “A” hut. Up at 0730 – all presents had been opened as no one could wait. Breakfast (good) at 0830. Services at 1100. The Colonel spoke to the men and was cheered. Dinner at 1300 very good – turkey and stuffing and gravy and cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes and mince pie and plum pudding and beer – 2 quarts to a man (I got 3).

Poor Jim was in quarantine in an empty hut. No one is supposed to go near them but last night there were 10 of us there. Later the adjutant came to the door. He must’ve seen me but he didn’t let on. If I was caught I’d either be up on a charge or quarantined. Hope it’s quarantine – I’d get 14 days rest.

I had 2 bottles of rye – one we drank Christmas eve; the other Seagrams VO 12 years old. I was going to drink it slowly and savour it but as I came out from the quarantine hut at 0400 the pipers were in a truck – they were going to the outports to play so I hopped in with my bottle… It lasted as long as a snowball in hell.

We drove out and sat as they played outside the Officers Mess at York Redoubt. In the truck the Piper had an argument with the Drummer then punched and pummelled him. We had to pull them apart – Piper sprained a thumb, Drummer got black eyes.

Corporal Francis James Fairhurst 1942 by GC Tinning

Corporal Francis James Fairhurst 1942 by GC Tinning

We drove along the coast and the pipers played the “Last Post” for 20 miles. When we got there it was almost dark. In the guardhouse were triple decker beds and the next thing I knew was being wakened to go back. Bed at 2315 tired and happy.

Many of the men accepted invitations to dinner at private homes in Halifax. Although leaves were cancelled when we came here, I think all souls had a good Christmas. I certainly did.” This Portrait was done in December as a Christmas present for Tinning’s “Black Watch” buddy.

Diary entry 28 Dec 42:
“At 1145 hrs the Intelligence Officer announced that suspicious characters had been reported in the vicinity of Sambro Head. We were to get out at once – Cpl N. myself, Mr. B. and a driver in the jeep. A truck with a corporal and four men would follow. We tore out the St Margarets Bay Road with the truck barely three minutes behind us. At Upper Tantallon I got out to wait for the truck and direct it down the road the jeep had taken toward Peggy’s Cove. Beautiful country all about with fishing villages. It was cold in the jeep so I was glad to ride in the truck for the 35 miles to Peggy’s Cove. The landscape was barren with huge gray rocks scattered about. Peggy’s Cove village is on a peninsula above the cove proper with a yellow church and red spire and small houses. We met the jeep and followed it to a village with rocks standing alone around which the main road circled. When we got here above the Atlantic Mr. B and Cpl. N. and two men walked down to the house of the native. We juniors sat and ate cold cheese sandwiches which we’d brought along and tried to warm our feet in a small barn with a cow munching hay. Cpl N. came out and called me and I went at the double to find that the suspects were two airforce men who had come out for a weekend’s painting – an older chap and a younger one. I was to look and see if the painting and artist were bone-fide etc.. The pictures were certainly no breach of security – but surely, in these times, this calls for grimmer things than pretty little oils. I thought I’d laugh out loud though. It was so funny to go out on such a mission – with rifles and tommy-guns etc and then find artists had caused all the rumpus.”

1943 Halifax, Nova Scotia

Beethoven Concerto No. 4 1943; w-c on board; 27 x 35 cm

Beethoven Concerto No. 4 1943; w-c on board; 27 x 35 cm

Music was an inspiration for Tinning to make a quick watercolour sketch. This one was inspired by Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 by the New York Philharmonic aired on the radio January 3, 1943. Written on the reverse: “To be sold for $50.” At the time he was stationed in Halifax with the Black Watch. His diary entry for the day: “Sun 3 Jan 43 Didn’t go to church parade – read and ate in quarantine hut – wasted day really.”

Research on this undated sketch of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, (found in his estate) reveals a story spanning two centuries encompassing four arts – poetry, music, animation,and painting.

Ducas Sorcerer's Apprentice; undated; watercolour sketch on paper; 20 x 32.5 cm

Ducas Sorcerer’s Apprentice; undated; watercolour sketch on paper; 20 x 32.5 cm Courtesy: Moose Jaw Museum and Art Gallery

‘Ducas “ Sorcerer’s Apprentice”’ is pencilled on the lower right margin of this sketch. Paul Dukas’ symphonic poem composed in 1897 is a musical interpretation of a fourteen stanza poem written by Goethe in 1797. The music gained popularity with Walt Disney’s animation film “Fantasia” in 1940 with Mickey Mouse as “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”. From Tinning’s diary 9 Jan 43: “later, saw a bit of “Fantasia””. Conceivably, Tinning painted his sketch at this time as a result of viewing the Walt Disney film.

From Goethe’s poem:
That old sorcerer has vanished Flow, flow onward
And for once has gone away! Sketches many
Spirits called by him, now banished, Spare not any
My commands shall soon obey. Water rushing,
Every step and saying Ever streaming fully downward
That he used, I know, Toward the pool in current gushing…
And with sprites obeying
My arts I will show.

In 1950 Tinning commented: “It is not my intention to interpret the work of the great masters of music… As my reaction to music is often visual I am able to paint part of the impressions received… often completing a more abstract expression…” If Goethe’s message is: “playing with things you know nothing about can cause anarchy” then Tinning’s visual impression is an apt expression of a poem, a symphony and a film.

1943 The Gazette, Montreal, Quebec

From The Gazette, Montreal – Saturday, February 13th, 1943 (Staff Writer):
“Campbell Tinning, who some time ago, joined the Black Watch (R.H.R.) and went east for training, is holding an exhibition of his watercolours at the Sidney Carter Galleries… It is in these galleries that Tinning held his first show after arrival in this city… Periodic Inspection 1942 LAC 1990-143-4while earlier in the war a subsequent show featured planes (Periodic Inspection, Harvard Trainer Repair Hangar, Trenton, 1941 LAC 1990-143-4) at the Canadian air training centre at Trenton, Ontario. One of these won the Jessie Dow Prize for watercolour at a Spring Show of the Art Association of Montreal… Field BC 1942Always a robust painter with a fondness for large scale, the present exhibition reveals a great freedom of handling in paintings he did in British Columbia where the combination of massive mountains and water appealed to him and allowed him to indulge his flair for impressive forms, spacious distances and cloud-filled skies (Field BC, 1942)... Montreal 1940…these powerful performances make fine foil for the paintings of old buildings in quiet streets which occupied his brush when he was in Montreal. One is of the entrance to the Seminary on Sherbrooke Street and features one of the historic towers. There are also several examples executed here before he went “Active” including a painting of sunlit buildings (Montreal 1940)… a convincing performance. Saint Sauveur 1941From farther afield is an effective winter landscape done at St. Sauveur, with a cluster of buildings under snow and mountains for a background. (Saint-Sauveur 1941). This region also furnished another bold work with snow covered field and the rolling wooded hills as the dominant pictorial elements… Sussex NB 1942 LAC 1992-636-13Besides the paintings concerned with air training, there are also some done in a camp down east [New Brunswick] with huts, buildings and incidental figures to make interesting compositions (Camp Sussex, 2nd Battalion Black Watch 1942 LAC 1992-636-13)… since his departure Tinning’s work has been exhibited in Toronto and a collection of his watercolours is now being shown in London, Ont. Sergeant's Mess Sussex NB 1942Further proof that soldiering has not blunted his desire to paint was furnished early last year when portions of a letter describing his off time occupation in painting spacious decorations for the mess hall at the camp where he was stationed were printed in this column. (Cartoon for Sergeant’s Mess, Camp Sussex N.B. 1942) The subjects were a lively variety, making greater appeal to soldiers than to the connoisseur seeking something fairly placid to hang in his home.”

1943 Sidney Carter, Montreal, Quebec

March 2, 1943 Letter to Lance Corporal GC Tinning at Camp Sussex, New Brunswick from Sidney Carter, Fine Art Dealer, 2025 Victoria Street, Montreal. Fort de La Montagne 1948
Dear Campbell, Mrs. Howard called this morning… She wanted a picture as a gift to a friend in the States and her absolute limit was $25. So-o-o, I let her have the first of the Tower pictures as being typical of Montreal. (Fort de la Montagne Towers 1948, Ford Times Collection, Dearborn, MI) Actually this and the Reford sale of $15, are the sole results of the show – for which I am sorry – but – c’est le guerre. There were quite a number of visitors but few enquiries as to price… Brahm's Concerto 1942I will get your pictures off to the Spring Exhibition [Art Association of Montreal]. I had to order a frame for the musical one. (Brahms Concerto in B Flat (Piano) Artur Rubinstein and the New York Philharmonic Nov. 8, 1942, Courtesy: The Mendel Gallery Collection, Saskatoon, SK.) … enclosed is cheque [$21.65] which squares us to date for these two pictures…. Sincerely, Sidney Carter [Tinning earned about $1.60 a day as a Lance Corporal.]

1943 Halifax, Nova Scotia

Devil's Battery from Shore Road, June 2014

Devil’s Battery from Shore Road, Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia; photo taken June 2014

Wed 19 May 43: … to RA Park Mess where I played the piano for an hour… then to Atlantic Command where I ordered a car. There was an enormous lineup at the ferry so we drove around Bedford Basin, through Dartmouth to Devil’s Battery. [satellite image]

Bofors Ack Ack Gun; CWM 19710261-5400

Bofors Ack Ack Gun CWM 19710261-5400

20 May 43: Got up at 0700 hrs – breakfast – grey day – did watercolour (sketch and larger one) of a Bofors gun and cleaning crew [Bofors Ack Ack Gun] – in pm did ink and wash drawing of same gun. Show in hall at night “Sergeant York” very good.

Fri 21 May 43: Up at 0700 – Saw morning parade – quick sketch (for figures) on Bofors gun – then No 2 Gun on ramp (oil and watercolour) and in afternoon No. 2 Gun and also two w-c’s of 9.2 ” guns (neither very successful) [Number 2 Gun ]

Number 2 Gun; CWM 19710261-5534

Number 2 Gun; CWM 19710261-5534

Sat 22 May 43: Repeat of No. 2 gun – also re-drawing in studio i.e. in the mess of main drawing of No 2 gun done yesterday. Left at 1310 for Halifax…

Sun 23 May 43 … Car called at 1600 hrs and drove to Devil’s Battery in time for a party – much to drink and eat until 12 o’clock – was very tired.

Mon 24 May 43: … did a large watercolour of No. 2 Gun and emplacement from above – very good idea – poorly executed. I scream – I die – but it’s no good. It’ll come but I’ve a lot to catch up on.

In Bofors Position; CWM 19710261-5494

In Bofors Position; CWM 19710261-5494

In afternoon sketched 2 soldiers (gunners) sleeping by their Bofors [In Bofors Position] – could have been good but the gun I drew very badly. So it goes – think I will do the same view of No. 2 gun again tomorrow and another of the same from the pit as on the 21st.

9.2-Inch Gun; CWM 19710261-5526

9.2-Inch Gun; CWM 19710261-5526

Tues 25 May 43 – did large watercolour in Paynes grey, Raw umber and Indian red. In afternoon fixed 2 previous pictures [9.2-Inch Gun] and then to No. 1 gun where I did a quick sketch which was much better than any done so far…
Tues 25 May 43… Did a copy of the Bofors picture [at Devil’s Battery] for the Major who was very pleased and did not charge me for my messing which is all to the good. Left by command car at 2000 hrs for Halifax and slept at R.A. Park.”

Bofors Anti-Aircraft Gun May 1943, Devil's Battery, Nova Scotia LAC 1992-636-7

Bofors Anti-Aircraft Gun, Halifax Defences LAC 1992-636-7

Tinning identified this location in pencil on the lower right as Chebucto Head – a defensive area in the Southern sea approach to Halifax Harbour. There were no Bofors guns at Chebucto Head but there were Bofors at Devil’s Battery on the Northern approach to Halifax. Also, from the topography it is more likely the location for this sketch was Devil’s Battery.

Browning Machine Gun Emplacement 19710261-5408

Browning Machine Gun Emplacement 19710261-5408

Tue 1 Jun 43 To Fort [Chebucto] did three coloured pencil sketches of 6” gun – very poor w-c of a machine gun emplacement; In afternoon large w-c of the head with 6” on top – from below. Also sketch in pencil. Movie at night to which all the fisher folk from round about came – they, most of them, live right within the area. Scads of kids and some older people.

Men's Quarters CWM 19710261-5517

Men’s Quarters CWM 19710261-5517

Wed 2 Jun 43 Fog and rain… In the afternoon to Duncan’s Cove – poor sketch of the men’s hut – in ink and wash. At night to town [Halifax] with the utility truck … Driving in the fog is hair raising. At Spryfield the driver stopped for what looked like an accident – on morning radio news the announcer said that two children died in a fire and that a navy bus hit a civilian bus on the Bedford round and four people were killed. There seems to be a fire or an accident every day in this part of the world.

Chebucto Head 1943; 38.3 x 58.0 cm ; watercolour on art board CWM 19710261-5438

Chebucto Head CWM 19710261-5438

Thur 3 Jun 43 A most unusually beautiful day – grey in the morning – clearing to bright sunlight at noon and then in the afternoon while I was up on the [Chebucto] Head a very strange fog came around the south shore. We looked down on it from our high position. It was silver-white and rolled over the sea leaving the land behind it grey-blue while the sun still shone where we stood. As it reached the Head it changed its mind and headed out to sea and so disappeared.

No. 1 Gun CWM 19710261-5530

No. 1 Gun CWM 19710261-5530

… Did two coloured pencil sketches of the post above the fog horn house… This before lunch. At 1600 hrs did a large w-c of No 1 gun with a beautiful sky. In the evening went fishing – caught nothing but it was a good walk – inland lake.

RDF Hut CWM 19710261-5559

RDF Hut CWM 19710261-5559

Fri 4 Jun 43 Worked hard at an oil of the D.S. post and fog-warning house. Not bad – it is an oil painting [RDF Hut] but it doesn’t thrill me… What a beautiful day – face very sunburnt. There were clouds but it was very clear this morning and as I was doing the oil sketch they broke – with a huge opening of deep aquamarine sky to the East, a great arch of pale cloud edged with sun above it and below on the purple horizon of the sea far away deep clouds in long low lines – it changed again all the clouds save pure silver splashes here and there and the sea changed to the deepest and clearest of blues – and over the dim coloured hill the green-blue sky – with great white clouds with grey (warm grey puffed ones) floating against them.

CO's Parade CWM 19710261-5443

CO’s Parade CWM 19710261-5443

Mon 7 June 43 … I worked on an oil sketch of No. 2 gun. I do not like oil. In the afternoon did watercolour of the CO’s [Commanding Officer’s] parade – lousy…

QM Stores CWM 19710261-5556

QM Stores CWM 19710261-5556

Tue 8 Jun 43 Grey day… in studio – oil of Quarter Master [QM] stores in afternoon…

Storage Sheds CWM 19710261-5584

Storage Sheds CWM 19710261-5584

Wed 9 Jun 43 Worked up at guns in AM. Good idea for a watercolour which I executed so very badly. Crayon of No. 2 gun. In afternoon crayon of utility truck – watercolour of small sheds …

Officer's Quarters CWM 19710261-5539

Officer’s Quarters CWM 19710261-5539

officer’s [quarters] and rocks (the only one I’ve done so far with anything of me in it – good). …

Fri 11 Jun 43 …sketch of gates to Fort looking out (idea good) [Entrance Gate]… [Gunner’s Shelter also painted on this day.]

Entrance Gate CWM 19710261-5461

Entrance Gate CWM 19710261-5461

Gunner's Shelter CWM 19710261-5486

Gunner’s Shelter CWM 19710261-5486

Sat 12 Jun 43 Grey horrible day… worked on oils from sketches done yesterday. Fed up – decided to leave which I did at 1630 in the utility truck… Good bunch at Chebucto but if I stayed there longer I’d go nuts. Painting in quarters with officers on duty is not good.
[Report to Colonel Duguid in Ottawa] 12 Jun 43 Very wet grey day – worked indoors on oil sketches. Decided to leave in afternoon at 1630 after seeing CO and thanking him.

1943 Aldershot, Nova Scotia

Building the Dam CWM 19710261-5409

Building the Dam CWM 19710261-5409

Building the Obstacle Course Dam CWM 19710261-5411

Building the Obstacle Course Dam CWM 19710261-5411

Tue 22 June 43 At 1230 hrs left by car for [Camp] Aldershot – beautiful drive through some of the most picturesque country in Canada – the “ballyhoo” about it is justified. Called at the Orderly Room and met Adjutant… Driven to a dam they are building for an obstacle course where I did a good crayon sketch (truck unloading) and a good watercolour from below the damn with trucks and men on top. Supper and beer at the mess – lobster…

Wed 23 Jun 43 The Commander- in-Chief wants me to do the General Operations room which is why I hang around. I telegraphed “Life” magazine re the Peter Hurd painting “Return from Rouen” [Life Magazine 28 Jun 43 Issue Page 6] – it is in tempera on gesso as I suspected.

Thu 24 June 43 Telegraphed Loomis and Toles, Toronto [Art Supply Store] who replied in answer to my query that they have complete stock of dry colours and are experienced in handling and preparing gesso panels. Went to the Gen Ops room in the afternoon and did one crayon sketch…. Drew with the whole gallery of Colonels, a General and CWAC officers watching… to carry on and complete…

General Operations Room CWM 19710261-5476

From the Beaverbrook Collection of War Art Canadian War Museum; Artifact No. 19710261-5476
Place: Nova Scotia, Halifax
Date: 1943/06/24
Size: 39.5 x 56.7 cm
Support paper: mat, frame Medium: watercolour

Carrier Scheme CWM 19710261-5411

Carrier Scheme CWM 19710261-5411

Fri 9 Jul 43 … In the afternoon Captain Ripley No. 14 A.I.(R)T.C. took me by carrier [Armoured Personnel Carrier] and jeep over the carrier training course. He later posed 3 carriers for me and I made a good watercolour of them manoeuvering… While we were there, a man from the Voltigeurs Regiment drowned while swimming nearby in the Cornwallis River…

Taking the Salute CWM 19710261-5585

Taking the Salute CWM 19710261-5585

Tues 13 July 43 Commanding Officer’s Parade. Colonel Jeffrey agreed to let me park the staff car behind his saluting base. I did 3 quick sketches… an admirable subject for depiction with the red and white standards flapping. Terribly hot. At supper I was told that transport was taking a convoy to Digby so I phoned HQ to request a stayover. “Montreal” beer in the Mess that night!

Wed 14 Jul 43 Away at 0900 hrs. It may sound silly but this is the loveliest pastoral scenery I’ve ever seen – deep blue shining rivers, gold and green hills and white houses. We arrived before the convoy (of approximately a hundred vehicles) and parked near the Digby Pines Hotel. I did two sketches at dinner with the parked vehicles, men with their mess tins…” NOTE: This undated Tinning watercolour (below left) of two houses labeled “Annapolis N.B.” may be the two houses shown right in Digby, Nova Scotia – near Annapolis Royal, NS – painted on 14 Jul 43.

Annapolis N.B. Undated

Annapolis N.B. Undated

Water Street Digby 2014

Water Street Digby 2014


Tinning at Fort Ogilvie Photo taken 15 Jun 43 by 2nd Lt. Duberville, P.R.O. M.D.6

“Here you see Lieut. George Campbell Tinning, Montreal artist, who is attached to the Canadian Army Historical Section, at work on an oil painting of a camouflaged gun position at an Atlantic Command outpost on the Nova Scotia coast. He is wearing a forage cap with his battle dress to shade the sun from his eyes.” (Caption from a photo published in The Herald, Montreal on July 17, 1943) Tinning posed for this photo in Point Pleasant Park, Halifax. It was taken by the Canadian Army Public Relations Office to accompany an article by Lt. R. Haviland – “Canadian Artists in Action”. “…But while the practise drill continues, down behind the gun stands an officer. In front of him, rather incongruously is a portable easel with a piece of canvas stretches across it. In one hand he carries a palette with dabs of freshly mixed paint, and in the other a brush… 1943-07-17 Montreal Standard He is a war artist whose task it is to record the activities of the Canadian Army both at home and overseas. They are a group of younger Canadian artists who are following in the footsteps of F.S. Varley, A.Y. Jackson, Arthur Lismer and other well-known Canadian artists who did such splendid work during the Great War… Tinning, for the present, is working in the Atlantic Command area, portraying the work of the soldiers who are guarding Canada’s eastern coast.”

1943 Sydney, Nova Scotia

Nissen Huts 1943; watercolour on art board; 38.2x50.6 cm; CWM # 19710261-5528

Nissen Huts 1943; watercolour on art board; 38.2×50.6 cm; CWM # 19710261-5528

On August 19, 1943 Tinning visited the Dominion Iron and Steel Works in Sydney, Nova Scotia where there were two anti-aircraft guns. He painted one of the Nissen Huts used for ammunition storage. A lonely sentry is barely visible in the centre of a scene dominated by grey, black and purple vapours billowing over an industrial wasteland. Seventy years later this blighted area would became Open Hearth Park – the pride of Sydney.

1943 Vancouver, British Columbia

Diary entry on Wed 10 Nov 43:
“Command car called for me at 0900 hrs – took me to Ambleside – 3.7 guns. Lunch there. did 4 pictures – 1 good, two possible – home by 6pm.”

Fort Ambleside 1943- Ambleside Park 2013

Fort Ambleside 1943 – Ambleside Park 2013

Known during World War II as the First Narrows Battery (North Vancouver) this area at the entrance to Burrard Inlet had AMTB (Anti-Motorized Torpedo Boat) guns mounted to protect the Lions Gate Bridge from attack by enemy boats. There were also anti-aircraft guns (Bofors). This area is now a popular waterfront recreational area  called Ambleside Park. (In the photo the tip of Stanley Park and Siwash Rock can be seen in the distance across the water.)

1944 Wiltshire, England

Parachute Training England 1944; Charcoal on paper; 32 x 40cm

Parachute Training England 1944; Charcoal on paper; 32 x 40cm

Tinning was posted to Camp Bulford, England as an Official Canadian War Artist in December 1943. In January 1944 he was attached to the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion school for two months in order to portray various facets of training. This sketch was done in preparation for one of Tinning’s most iconic paintings – Drifting Down – a watercolour used on the cover of “The War Art of George Campbell Tinning”. This catalogue published by the Moose Jaw Museum & Art Gallery accompanied a 1999-2000 travelling exhibition curated by Heather Smith. Dropping Zone is another watercolour of this genre. The area is near Stonehenge in Wiltshire.

At right is the cover art for “Boys of the Clouds” – a book issued by Trafford Publishing, Victoria, British Columbia in 2005. This oral history of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion used Tinning’s iconic painting  now in the Canadian War Museum collection and titled “Drifting Down” – a large oil on canvas (81.3 X 101.8 cm) painted in 1944 at Winterbourne Stoke, Wylye Valley, Wiltshire.

1944 Bournemouth, England

Preparing Parachutes for a Practise Jump...1944-02 Preparing to Take Off CWM 19710261-5554 1944-02Parachute Troops Preparing... CWM 19710261-5547Preparing Parachutes for a Practise Jump at Herne Airport near Bristol, 1st Canadian Paratroop Battalion was painted at Hurn Airport, Bournemouth in February 1944 during Tinning’s six-week attachment to “1st Can Para Bn” , 3rd Paratroop Brigade of the 6th Airborne Division (British) as they trained in preparation for D-Day.
A more advanced watercolour sketch Preparing To Take Off shows the Canadian paratroopers beside their Albemarle aircraft in Exercise “Co-Operation” whereby the brigade of over 1,500 paratroopers were transported by American and British aircraft in a simulated landing on the French coast. Tinning completed at least two initial sketches (at Library and Archives Canada) and two advanced sketches – (at the Canadian War Museum) and eventually painted an oil on canvas, Parachute Troops Preparing to Board a Dropping Plane. The decision to complete an oil painting from a sketches was determined by the artist and senior officer’s in the Historical Section of Canadian Military Headquarters in London.

1944 St Albans, England

In February, 1944 Tinning was admitted to No. 10 Canadian General Hospital near St. Albans, England for a sinus infection. This was not a pleasant experience. Diary entry:

Hair Cut 1944; pen/pencil and watercolour sketch on paper; 24.3 x 39.0 cm LAC#1992-661-36

Hair Cut 1944; pen/pencil and watercolour sketch on paper; 24.3 x 39.0 cm LAC#1992-661-36

“I fear sometimes that to be an artist is the most unrewarding and loneliest of professions – due to the inattention and lack of interest – not to say the uncaring ignorance shown by 90% of those I meet. In the Army it is one in a hundred who knows anything of painting or wants to know – so I am forced to the conclusion that it is an art which is of little or no use or necessity and am often most cast down by the feeling that what I do is pointless and fruitless.

Am arrived in hospital (22 Feb) and the above is engendered by the complete lack of interest here and where one might suppose the enforced leisure would allow an interest in such things.”

Tinning continued to paint while he was in hospital but subject matter was uninspiring. Sketch is from the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) collection.

Tinning’s March 1944 diary has a subsequent entry – likely made in the 1990’s:
“Canadian Hospital near St Albans. Should never have been admitted – a butcher Captain operated on my left sinus quite unnecessarily and a hole was left between it and my mouth until I had it repaired at Teplow Hospital in June 1945.”

Floral Arrangement 1944; watercolour on paper; 39 x 56 cm

Floral Arrangement 1944; watercolour on paper; 39 x 56 cm

This soothing green floral watercolour done in the Canadian Army hospital may have been a balm to Tinning’s frayed nervous disposition due to his unsuccessful surgery. This painting was sold in 2013 at a fund-raising auction for MOSAIC, a non-profit agency that assists the immigrant community in Vancouver. Tinning not infrequently donated paintings to churches (notably Christ Church Cathedral in Montreal) and social agencies  for fund-raising.

1944 Weybridge, Surrey, England

Dame Edith Locke King, a distant relative, invited Tinning to her estate. [From Tinning’s diary] Caenshill“One weekend in April did go on leave to Weybridge to visit mother’s cousin – Ethel (Campbell) Locke King at her house Caenshill. She put me up at a most comfortable hotel in Weybridge (God knows why.). When I arrived her butler opened the door and I was ushered into the library where Dame Ethel (she and deceased husband founded the first automobile race course ever in the 1900’s on their property and she got her title not from those but from an Officers Hospital that she supported in the 1st Great War. ) She, an old Admiral, and others were playing bridge and I was handed a book on Einstein with full page photographs of his “Adam” which shocked (?)” [The last two hand-written words are unclear – they appear to be either “me a lot” or “mother”.]

1944 Sussex, England

Windlesham School, Sussex, England June 1944; watercolour on board; 15" x 20"

Windlesham School, Sussex, England June 1944; watercolour on board; 15″ x 20″ Courtesy: CWM

This watercolour sketch was done at Windlesham School (a Canadian Army training base) in June 1944. On the reverse: “Men’s cigarette issue passing the biggest bloody lilac I’ve ever seen.”  Tinning enjoyed smoking. In April, 1944 he wrote to his mother: “1000 more cigarettes came in Thursday. Heavenly joy! Apart from the better quality of Canadian cigs your sending them saves me much more as English ones are most expensive.”

1944 Civitella della Chiana, Italy

On June 19, 1944 Civitella in Val de Chiana was the site of a massacre of Italian villagers in retribution for the murder of two Wehrmacht soldiers. In September 1944 Tinning visited the town and painted the main square and the ruined church. He was overwhelmed by the beauty of the village in spite of the destruction of war and its recent history “ … in this town the Germans committed one of their most barbarous massacres of Italian civilians…” These two Tinning watercolours are from the Canadian War Museum (CWM) collection in Ottawa. The comparative photos are from internet sites – the first being a post World War One view of the towns’ main square Piazza Principale (Becattini) and the second is an interior view of Santa Maria Assunta church in 1944.

Civitella del Chiano Piazza Prinicpale

The Castle and Main Square, Civitella della Chiana, Italy CWM #19710261-5439 and post World War One b/w photo of the Piazza Becatinni or Main Square

Sat 26 Aug 44 … to Civitella della Chiana which is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. There is a ruined castle dominating the little town which has a piazza. The first house off it was the Mayor’s… with plaques and coats of arms of the first 400 years including some Luca della Robbia terra-cottas.

Sun 27 Aug 44 Went again to Civitella della Chiana – beautiful day- excellent picture of Piazza and castle. A little boy gave me an olive wood box and showed me his house which had been bombed but was still intact – in one room a 13th Century Madonna and saints. Rode the boys up and down the mountain in our jeep.

Civitella della Chiano, Church of Santa Maria Assunta 1944 (watercolour and photo)

Ruined church at Civitella della Chiana, Italy CWM #19710261-5566 and 1944 b/w photo.

1944 Adriatic Coast, Italy

Cattolica Italy 1944; Watercolour on paper 15 1/2″ x 22″ (38 x 55 cm)

G. Campbell Tinning and Thomas R. McDonald replaced Charles Comfort and Lawren P. Harris as war artists at the Gothic Line front in July 1944. Recreation became available along the Adriatic Coast near Cattolica and Riccione after the Line was breached and active combat moved further north. (Painting from collection of S. Bowes.) It was at this time on August 7th that Tinning was promoted to Captain.

Chiesa di San Antonio e San Michele, Pergine, Valdarno 1944; w-c on paper; 14.5"x23"; unsigned Courtesy: MJMAG

Chiesa di San Antonio e San Michele, Pergine 1944; w-c on paper; 14.5″x23″ Courtesy: MJMAG

Photo: Google Map 2014

Photo: Google Map 2014

The Chiesa di San Michele at Pergine Valdarno is typical of the many rural churches Tinning painted during his 6 months posting to Italy in 1944. The town was on the route between Florence and the Adriatic Coast that Tinning travelled by his jeep while attached to the 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade. From his diary: “Sun 27 Aug 44 Picture at Pergine with 50 Itys [Italians] around us – Church of St Anthony and St. Michael (San Antonius and San Michele) – beautiful quattrocentro [ie. made between 1400 and 1500 AD] statues of the saints.”

1944 The Gothic Line, Italy

Tavullia Exhibition Catalogue Ten Tinning paintings from 1944 when The Gothic Line was breached by the 1st Canadian Corps were exhibited in Tavullia, (Tomba di Pesaro) Italy to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the town. Art works exhibited were enlarged colour reproductions of paintings from the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa and Library and Archives Canada. Curated by Maurizio Castelvetro the accompanying catalogue (cover at right) was also written by this talented local architect, musician and war historian.

Wed 30 Aug 44 … arrived HQ 5th Division on an arid hill by a shelled farm house. We set up on a hillside… Heat and dust and guns barking far away – in the evening the air cooled somewhat and the hills, farms, scrub and clefts took on a classic quality…[Tomba di Pesaro, Gothic Line, Italy, 1 Sep 44] Monte Peloso (2014 photo at right) just south of Tavullia was a hotly contested battle site known as Point 253 during the war.

Tomba di Pesaro, Gothic Line, Italy 1944
Mon 4 Sept 44 In morning (after breakfast of eggs and bacon) to the Gothic Line w-c of SP88 and farm across road from first one – Maj. H there he nearby when I finished. Afternoon – Tomba w-c of square with truck and abandoned German pill box trailer. Dead cow on hill like distended trailer. [Tomba di Pesaro, Italy 4 Sep 44] Photo 2014.
Tomba di Pesaro, Italy 1944-09-04
Sat 9 Sept 44 …we stopped at Tomba and I did a watercolour with a large sign “Bobby Clarkville – IN Bounds to ALL Canadian Troops”. It is good…” [Entrance to Tomba di Pesaro] … Bobby Clark was Commanding Officer of the Irish Regiment which captured the town and the quickly whitewashed signage was a jibe at Military Police who erected “Out of Bound” signs immediately after Canadians captured any town. The words on the side of the house (the mayor’s at the time) were subsequently painted over.

018 Entrance to Tomba di Pesaro

Wed 13 Sept 44 … near Misano went into the Vault of the Mausoleum close to a cemetery… men from the 4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards were sleeping there awaiting reinforcements… Germans shelling was severe… [In the Vault of a Cemetery 1945/47 ] The regiment had just received mail… what impressed me was that the men were so relaxed – rifles hung on the cross – some were lying in empty tombs – others played cards on the floor… [Photo: San Biago Cemetery, Misano Monte, 2014.]

055 b In The Vault

Looted Room, Coriano, Italy 1944; goache paper on canvas; 60.7x76.0 cm; CWM #19710261-5511

Looted Room, Coriano, Italy 1944; gouache paper on canvas; 60.7×76.0 cm; CWM #19710261-5511

Mon 18 Sep 44: “Every building in Coriano is smashed. In one house the beds are torn apart: powder boxes, hats, and cheap ornaments heaped in a jumble [with] vino bottles, broken trunks, a velvet jacket, rosaries, Chinese figurines and worthless Mickey Mice… To one house come people: timid, dust-stained, bare-footed. They put together a bed and cover the windows with boards. They exist and wait in the midst of war.”

Tue 19 Sept 44 … to Cattolica. Did a 16x21watercolour of my jeep on the pier with soldiers bathing. [Cattolica, Italy Courtesy: S. Bowes. Photo: M. Castelvetro 2012]
034 SavignanoFrom Tinning Diary: Tues 31 Oct 44 ….to Savignano sul Rubicone. This town is on the great road that stretches from Rimini to Bologna. I did a good watercolour of the main square with Angel monument and Postal Corps. [Fascist Monument 1944, CWM 19710261-5469. Photo: 2014 R. Bowes] A postscript inserted in 1993: The “Angel” monument was for fascist dead! It caused some consternation among other artists. I had only looked at it as a good subject draped in the Italian flag… [This is now a memorial to the Italian military campaigns of Libya, Ethiopia, World War I and II.]

Piazza Giovanni Paolo II at Corso Giuseppe Mazzini, Cesena, Italy 2014

Piazza Giovanni Paolo II at Corso Giuseppe Mazzini, Cesena, Italy 2014 Credit: R. Bowes

“The Fight for Italy” [Legion Magazine 2015] contains a reproduction of a Tinning watercolour. A “remarkably good picture” according to Tinning’s own words in his diary – this depiction of the central piazza of Cesena, a town on the road to Bologna – admirably met the criteria outlined in instructions to Canadian war artists, namely to “select places and phases likely to lend themselves to pictorial work” .

Tanks Passing Through the Centre of Town 1944; CWM 19710261-5590

Tanks Passing Through the Centre of Town 1944; CWM 19710261-5590

“Mon 23 Oct 44 … Cesena very paintable… We started exploring and a Tommy jumped out of the bushes and said “you can’t go any further up this road the Germans are only a 100 yards up.”

Tinning at Cesena - A.M. Stirton DND 1944“Tues 24 Oct 4 … went into the centre of town where I did a remarkably good picture of ruins and transport – huge audience gathered round and as I was sitting on top of the jeep – a P.R.O. took three photos of me.” One appeared in a magazine captioned: “War artist Capt. G. C. Tinning records Italian campaign. War artists play an important part in bringing the war to the public. Their surroundings are a far cry from the cozy, comfortable studios they left in civilian life.”

Tinning participated in an exhibition of war art at Rimini, Italy in November 1944 where he had twenty-two works mounted for display. The celebrated British war artist Edward Ardizonne (whom Tinning respected highly) had six paintings exhibited and Tinning’s colleague T.R. MacDonald had fourteen pieces shown. The remainder were paintings by thirty nine “Allied Soldiers in the Field”  from all ranks of both armies – some amateur and some professional artists. Tinning retained his eight page catalogue (right) as a memento. (MJMAG)

1944 Urbino, Italy

Ducal Palace, Urbino

Ducal Palace, Urbino

In November 1944 Tinning completed this painting: Canadians In The Hall of the Dukes of Urbino. The room used as billets for soldiers was in a state of wartime disrepair. There are three watercolour versions of this scene in the Canadian War Museum (CWM). Spared bombing from Allied aircraft during the war the palace is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The photograph from 2011 of the Throne Room in the Ducal Palace demonstrates how it has been meticulously and beautifully restored. From Tinning diary: “Sun 26 Nov 44 Urbino – three pictures in Ducal palace of Perth Regiment mess.”

1944 Florence, Italy

This watercolour on paper is folded four ways and measures 15 x 12 cm. “Soldiers of the United States, Britain, Canada and Allied Countries at Christmas Service in Florence Italy 1944.” Inside: ” Best Wishes for a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year”. “…this most beautiful curria with men from all ranks and countries… The celebrant (the priest in charge) had one of the most extravagant and gorgeous capes of cloth of gold and ruby-coloured roses.” (Tinning diary entry 25 Dec 44)

1945 Ravenna, Italy

Town North of Ravenna Feb 1945; ink on paper; 32 x 49cm

Town North of Ravenna Feb 1945; ink on paper; 32 x 49cm

In January 1945 Tinning and MacDonald took billets and a studio at the Accademia della Arte in Ravenna. This ink sketch of a crossroads in a town north of Ravenna was a study for a painting now in the Canadian War Museum entitled Italian Partisans at San Alberto, North of Ravenna. The Partisans were an important ally in the fight against Wehrmacht soldiers who still occupied most of northern Italy in early 1945. This sketch was donated to the Canadian War Museum by Tinning’s heirs in 2013 along with twenty-two pencil and watercolour sketches which were stored by the artist for over half a century in his various apartment/studios in Montreal where he settled after the war.

Italian Family Under German Mortar Fire - Feb 13, 1945 w-c on paper; 56.5x78.2 cm Canadian War Museum #19710262-5498

Italian Family Under German Mortar Fire – Feb. 13, 1945; Canadian War Museum #19710262-5498

13 Feb 45 – We reached Sant’ Alberto about 12 o’clock and giving some of our rations to the Italian family we had an excellent lunch in their tiny dining room. After lunch the eldest girl played the piano and sang – then she asked me to play which I did. She was standing beside me, humming the tune, when there was a horribly loud bang and the windows shook. Immediately the youngest girl flew to a corner and crouched, white as a sheet, so that her powder made her face blue; then another hump and everyone flew to the corner. I was quite nonchalant at first but when a shell came closer I crouched behind the table, watching the windows…The sofa mattress from a day bed was torn off by the women and they – including the plump mother – hid under it. As the mattress came off her work basket was thrown on the floor and pins and needles, darning eggs and thimbles fell all round. As I watched, my head above the table rim, a shell landed outside and the French window came bursting into the room. I could see that glass hurling as tho in slow motion. A great scream went up from the women. I called to my driver who said: “I’m alright sir. I’m right behind you.” – which he was with the prettiest daughter who he told me after, clutched him crying “Mamma Mia! Mamma Mia!” and grabbed his head and kissed him. During a lull in the shelling we all dashed into the “Reffugio” or air raid shelter.

Italian Family in Underground Shelter CWM 19710261-5497

Italian Family in Underground Shelter – Feb. 13, 1945; Canadian War Museum #19710261-5497

The neighbours were there and it was crowded with three children, two old ladies, one clutching a pot of coals, men, all the girls and us. After it seemed over we ventured out and a turkey and one chicken were dead. There was a great hole in the house next door up near the roof and the wall of the garden had a large niche chipped out of the brick. We found my jeep intact – the roof covered with red brick rubble. [Edited excerpt from Tinning’s War Diary.]

1945 Florence, Italy

Piazza Santa Maria Novella FlorenceThis watercolour and pencil sketch on paper of the Piazza Santa Maria Novella (with the Duomo seen in the distance) was completed in February 1945 just prior to Tinning’s embarkation for Marseilles and a posting to Holland. This Piazza used during Roman times for chariot races (obelisks marked the end posts) miraculously escaped the Allied bombs that fell on and destroyed the nearby Florence train station. Although an “open city” and theoretically exempt from bombardment the Allies did bomb the rail lines and the Germans destroyed the bridges over the Arno River during their retreat.

1944-45 Card from Stalag Luft III

Stalag Luft III Prisoner-of-war Message from Robert Buckham, Postmarked February 9, 1945

Stalag Luft III Prisoner-of-war Message from Robert Buckham, Postmarked February 9, 1945

Tinning received this card from his friend Robert Buckham (1918-2003) imprisoned in a German Stalag. Both being graphic artists they met as civilians in Montreal before joining the military – Buckham as an RAF bomber pilot; Tinning as a Canadian war artist. From Tinning’s diary: “8 May 43… Telegram RA Park Mess [Halifax] last night to say that Bucko prisoner of war.”

Message written 19 Nov 44 from Buckham to Tinning ; Credit LAC

Message written 19 Nov 44 from Buckham to Tinning ; Credit: LAC Tinning fonds

Imprisoned at Stalag Luft III where the ‘great escape’ took place when 76 men tunnelled their way to a short-lived freedom, Bucko assisted in the forging of their documents. In January 1945 Stalag Luft III inmates were herded through eastern Germany in mid-winter to avoid advancing Russian troops. Bucko’s diary and sketches from this ordeal were published as “Forced March to Freedom” which later became the subject of a documentary in 2001.

1945 April – Slijk-Ewijk, Holland

This watercolour painted at Slijk-Ewijk on 10 Apr 45, near the River Waal downstream from Nijmegen, is in the landscape tradition. Tinning notes in his diary: “… I realize that there are many artists who would give a great deal to have the opportunity I have had. Knowing that has, at times, made me realize my temerity and yet I wonder how they would have done the job… ”

1945 April Kranenberg, Germany

Saint Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Kranenberg Photo: 2015 by R. Bowes

Saint Peter and Paul Church, Kranenberg Photo: 2015 by Robert Bowes

The ruins of Saint Peter and Paul Catholic Church was painted on Wednesday April 11, 1945. Located in Kranenberg, Germany close to the Dutch border a few kilometres south of Nijmegan, Holland the town was badly damaged by Allied bombers. The church built as a pilgrimage site for the “miraculous cross of Kranenberg” in the 15th Century was enhanced in the 19th and early 20th Century only to be destroyed during the winter of 1944-45. Tinning’s watercolour of the front portal and adjacent house shows the extent of the damage. The church was restored between 1949 and 1970. Nearby in Holland, Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery is where 2338 Canadians are buried including those gathered from the battlefields in Germany. General Crerar ordered that Canadian military dead were not to be buried in German soil. [Ref: Wikipedia}

1945 April – Arnhem, Holland

On 17 Apr 45 Tinning painted the Bailey bridge erected at Arnhem as a temporary replacement for the bombed out original structure. His diary entry for that day reads:

“I hold now, from a dead German, a box of matches – Netherlands’ manufactured. On one side a bullet has passed through at an angle so that some of the matches are splintered and the side of the box is split. It is just a box of matches yet there is still evidence, constant as a mould, of the path and place of the bullet that killed a man. Were the matches in a pocket by his heart or in a side pocket? But instantly after hitting the box the bullet was in him… So what? I do not know. Except that it is just a splintered box of matches and I use them to light my cigarettes but carefully preserve the splintered side. These things cannot be drawn or painted. I hold one in my fingers. It burns with a light yellow flame – now it is out and black.”

The Liberation of Arnhem by British and Canadian forces on 12- 16 April, 1945 resulted in complete devastation of the city as seen in Tinning’s painting. Although liberated from the German Army the city was a “deserted burning shell” according to a Canadian correspondent. This mixed media on art board completed in Ottawa in 1946 from sketches made on the scene is held by the CWM.

1945 April – Barneveld, Holland

From Tinning diary: “18 Apr 45 Moved up to Barneveld… Village “en fete” for liberation. Dutch flags and orange streamers…19 Apr 45 Partisan HQ picture Barneveld…”

April 1945, Liberation, Barneveld“My father and his brother were both in the Dutch resistance movement since 1941 and were very happy to see the Canadians arrive in Barneveld. The church building on the left hand side [Dutch Resistance] was on Spoorstraat…The house with the large flag hanging out of the window was my grandparent’s house… My Dad remembered the artist painting this picture…” Memory and 1945 photo of Dutch Interior Forces courtesy Els Wilms.

1945 May – Groningen, Holland

This painting is a poignant memory of May 8, 1945 and the official end of World War Two. Posted to Groningen, a city in northern Holland liberated by the Canadians, the artist deliberated on at least two subjects that would embody the spirit of the occasion. The Tinning fonds at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) include his diary, pencil sketches with notes and preliminary watercolour studies From Tinning’s, regretfully brief, war diary entries for May 8 & 9, 1945:Tinning War Diary May 1945
“VE Day” – Victory in Europe Day; “Jerry HQ” – German Headquarters
”Eric Harrison” – Historical Officer for the Canadian Forces in the Netherlands

Tinning explored other ideas to contrast hopes for the future with remembrances of the past. Beside a pencil sketch on paper he notes: “The three graves in the Groningen Park – in the street the flags + children”; and “contrast of mourning trees + shade with brightness on street + indifferent lovers”. Pencil Sketch LAC Text Document Tinning Fonds

Watercolour sketch May 1945 LACAnother Tinning idea: “Get a ruined house somewhere with military parade outside…flags”. The LAC has three watercolour sketches on this theme including one on a discarded piece of grey cardboard with the corners cut off. At right is “An interior sketch for “End of it All”; watercolour on wove paper; 57.4×36.7 cm [LAC No. 1992-636-14].

The south side of the Grote Markt (Great Market), a thousand year old municipal square, was the area least damaged by Allied bombing in World War II. It was this view that Tinning chose to paint on Sun 13 May 45. His diary entry for that date: “Sketched church parade – Grote Market – to see Martini Tower with its architect restorer Meinhaus” [The tower has been restored three times – was Meinhaus one of the restorers?]

On verso of this painting Tinning wrote: “ALL UNITS PARADE, GENERAL CRERAR REVIEWING THE 5TH ARMOURED DIVISION; NEAR GRONINGEN, NETHERLANDS MAY 1945; I BIT OFF MORE THAN I COULD CHEW G. C. T.;.. 23 MAY 1945…” The painting acquired by the CWM in 1994 was exhibited at the Dominion Gallery at Tinning’s last solo exhibition (while still alive).

From the Irish Regiment of Canada Historical Officer Report : “May 23, 1945 At 0650 hrs this morning the Regiment in T.C.Vs crossed its start line for the Airfield at Eelde… and arrived there at 0800 hrs. The Regiment was in position by 0850 hrs and it was an impressive sight to see 5 CDN ARMD DIV drawn up in review order on the Airfield. At 1100 hrs GENERAL CRERAR C.B., DSO, ED, came on the field and MAJ GEN B M HOFFMEISTER, CBE, DSO, ED, called the DIV to the GENERAL SALUTE. It was an impressive sight to see the whole division execute this movement….”

1945 May – Harlingen, Holland

At war’s end many German soldiers in Holland returned to their homeland through the harbour of Harlingen. Transported across the Ijsselmeer by Royal Navy LCT they debarked to trek across Northern Holland. Tinning diary entry for 29 May 45: “With new driver to  Harlingen and Zurich… “Eclipse” scheme to see British Landing Craft and Germans getting off… two watercolours…”

1945 May Zurich, Holland

“April 1945. Zider Zee near Eindhoven, Holland. Defeated Germans. Canadian sentry.”

Holland, May 1945; LAC 1990-141-131R

Zuiderzee 1945

As the German army did not surrender until May, 1945 this sketch of the Zuiderzee is erroneously dated by Tinning. The Zuiderzee Works (1927-32) were a massive Dutch land reclamation project including a dyke which was heavily fortified with casements and anti-tank obstacles. This scene depicts German soldiers returning home via the dike under the guidance and protection of the Canadian Army.Three tetrahedron anti-tank obstacles pencilled in the lower left of the sketch indicate this is the Afsluitsdijk.

1945 June – Zuidlaren, Holland

On June 14, 1945 Tinning painted this scene in Northern Holland a few miles southwest of Groningen. The war had ended over a month earlier and thousands of German soldiers were trekking across Holland in stages toward their homeland. Camp No. 14 near the De Wachter windmill was within a few days march of the German border. The men used whatever transport was available.

Eclipse, Vries 31 May 45 LAC 1990-143-121

Eclipse, Vries 31 May 45 LAC 1990-143-121

“Thur 31 May 45 … After lunch did some sketches of the horse drawn wagons parked under trees in the pouring rain. Saw their camp – the Jerry’s [slang for German soldiers] were like flies on the open ground…

Fri 1 June 45 …We drove down a side road and were stopped by a sentry then allowed in. We came to the windmill – drove past horses and carts and quiet Germans looming out of the dark all around us. Left the jeep and stumbled about inside the huge mill. The owners spoke good English and took us up the step ladder to the deck (mill built in 1851 – some of its original thatch still on it). On way out we were challenged by the sentry. I came about too late and he pointed his Sten at me.”

De Wachter, Zuidlaren , Holland 2015

De Wachter, Zuidlaren , Holland 2015

Germans, Eclipse, Zuidlaren, Holland 8 Jun 45 LAC #1990-143-160

“Eclipse: Many watercolours made by me south of Groningen recording the removal of the beaten German Army from Holland under guard of the Canadian Army.” Other comments from Tinning’s diary: “The defeated German army and police march and ride in a slow procession through the May country of Holland that they once ruled…A pompous officer on a ridiculous bicycle…Two young Dutchmen at the age when they could have been (might have been) captured and tortured and enslaved now sit free on iron garden chairs and watch the spectacle at their ease…I watch with quiet satisfaction.” [Germans, Eclipse, Zuidlaren, Holland, 1945; LAC sketch]

1944-45 Fantasy and Reality

Canadian Soldiers at San Giovanni, Romagna 1944; watercolour on paper; 39x58 cm CWM #20130026-015

Canadian Soldiers at San Giovanni in Romagna 1944; w-c on paper; 39×58 cm CWM #20130026-015

Tinning painted Canadian Soldiers at San Giovanni in Romagna, Italy in September 1944 as a fantasy reminiscent of his ‘paint to music’ sketches. On the reverse of this frivolity he sketched the face of a Young Dutchman in May 1945 (below left). Posted to Groningen in Northern Holland during the last days of the war the artist captures the reality of the Dutch Famine of 1944-45. The charcoal is a preparatory sketch for the watercolour (below right).

Young Dutchman 1945; charcoal on paper; 58×39 cm; CWM #20130026-015

Young Dutchman - After War 1945-06-30

Young Dutchman – After War 1945; watercolour on paper; 48.2×31.4 cm; CWM 19710261-5615

1945 July – Ayr, Scotland

Craigie House 1945; watercolour on paper; 37.5 x 56.3 cm

Craigie House 1945; waterolour on paper; 37.5 x 56.3 cm

In July Tinning visited his Campbell family ancestral home in Scotland. The artist noted in pencil on the lower left of this watercolour: “Craigie House Ayr. Home of my grandfather James Hay Campbell, Col. Highland Light Infantry” . Note: Both of these watercolours of Craigie House were donated to The Mann Art Gallery in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan in 2014.

Craigie House July 1945; watercolour on paper; 37.5 x 56.3 cm

Craigie House July 1945; watercolour on paper; 37.5 x 56.3 cm

On the reverse of a second watercolour done from the garden the artist has written in pencil: “This painted on leave from London early July 1945 (August) Capt. G.C. Tinning WAR ARTIST Hist. Sect. (G.S.)” “I was on train to Ayreshire from London when the news came that Churchill had lost the election and Labour was in.” “Garden overgrown with wartime weeds.” “Craigie House, owned and entailed by my great-grandfather James Campbell, birthplace and home of my grandfather James Hay Campbell younger son of above. Entail broken in the 1900s. Craigie given to Corporation of Ayr 1939.”

Craigie House 2013

Craigie House 2013

Craigie House 2013

Craigie House 2013

Craigie House is has been restored and is located on the Ayr Campus of the University of the West of Scotland. It is owned by the University and used for special functions. These photos were taken in October 2013.

1945 October – London, England

A letter from Molly Lamb – Official Canadian War Artist
2 Oct 45 Apeldoorn, Holland
Hello Cam:
I’ve got no business writing to you because I can hardly keep my eyes open and if I should be writing at all I should be answering my aunts and things. But it’s late and I’ve been driving all day from Hannover to here and I just thought jeez I must answer Capt Tinning’s v mail letter. Gosh I’m tired and looking over my sketches I don’t think anything of them. What I need is a piece of conté crayon . Have you got an old one you don’t want?
Did you get the letter from me and the Heyers? We had such a fine time together but I thought I’d go nuts looking at all those churches. You see it was so cold that day. It was fun to see Capt. Tinning Montreal in an old book at one church – now on the next page it has Molly Lamb Lt. Vancouver. Bruno wrote and told me that my promotion was through and the CWACs around here said: “Oh, don’t wait until it comes out in orders… Put up your second pips. So I thought that was a good idea but now I hear that Eric Heathcote is coming over and I’ve been strutting around as a full looie [lieutenant] for almost 2 weeks. Do you think that I will have some trouble? Oh, I’m too tired to write anymore but I’ll go on tomorrow because Cam, today I saw Belsen … at least from the outside.

After dinner at night Oct 3rd – Cam, my trunk has come so I am going again to Groningen to deliver your parcels and I should take the girl (I forget her name) two of my new dresses and a box of powder a pair of new shoes and some chocolate bars. They were all so good to me that I would be glad to repay them. I feel sick today all hot and cold. I think I’ve got a chill or something. Anyway I feel miserable and I wish we were in shorts or somewhere drowning our sorrows. I’m homesick for London too oh dear oh dear and I’ve had far too many adventures. My poor driver has had to get me out of everyplace I’ve gone into… Oldenberg, 2 Echelon … Everywhere, except Belsen. I saw the graves of the 5000 and the bones and the awful crematorium or what you call them.

I do miss you and I only hope to see you with your face lifted and your 6 £ hooked rug. So try and get out of the army in England and be there when I get back. I’m miserable and it’s winter almost and everything. I shall write again from Groningen after I’ve seen the Heyers. I’m so glad the parcels arrived in time for me to deliver them. These three weeks seem like three years. I can’t believe I’ve done so much. It’s funny I want to keep on talking to you but I can’t think of a tangible thing to say so goodnight Cam. With love Molly ps. The Heyers love you. They say you are always so sunny (sunny!)

[From Library and Archives Canada Campbell Tinning Fonds MG30 D385 Vol. 1]

London, England 1945

“The main incident affecting a Canadian establishment was that of 25 Nov 44, when a rocket fell in a side street just north of High Holburn and just west of Fairfax House…[which] was exposed to the blast of the explosion, and secondary damage to the building was heavy. The rooms on the fourth floor of Fairfax House used by the War Artist sub-section of Historical Section were particularly exposed and considerably damaged… ” (from CMHQ Report 137 “Enemy Air Attack.. The V-Weapons” 1945.)

Bombed Buildings Holborn, London 1945

Bombed Buildings Holborn, London 1945

This 6’X10″ black and white photo of a Tinning watercolour entitled “Bombed Buildings, Holborn, London” and found in the artist’s estate in 1996, depicts the damages done in bombing raids during the Second World War. Tinning inks on the reverse of the photo: “Painted from my studio at Fairfax House – Barrister’s Walk – Holborn – London – 1945.” These buildings were likely part of Gray’s Inn a group of historic buildings of an association for barristers and solicitors which was badly damaged. Tinning notes the scene shows the “effect of V2 rockets when I was in Italy and Holland in 1944-1945″ and that this painting was bought by a lawyer in Ottawa.

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