October 4, 2019: The Man Beneath the Paint: Tilden Daken

by Bonnie Portnoy and Laurie Thompson

Tilden Daken in his Mill Valley Studio, c.1928. © Bonnie Portnoy

The Civic Center Library and the Anne T. Kent California Room invite you to a special presentation on Friday, October 4th at 1:30 pm in the Marin Civic Center Board of Supervisors Chambers, 3501 Civic Center Dr., Suite 330, San Rafael.

Bonnie Portnoy. Painting by her grandfather Tilden Daken, in the background. © Bonnie Portnoy

Bonnie Portnoy, grand-daughter of California Impressionist painter Tilden Daken (1876–1935) presents The Man Beneath the Paint, her journey to uncover the mysteries of the grandfather she never knew.

Fallen Leaf Lake (near Lake Tahoe), 1922. Oil painting by Tilden Daken. © Bonnie Portnoy

According to Portnoy:

On a stormy day in January 1999, Bonnie Portnoy, a Marin County native, went off to the Marin County Free Library at the Civic Center to search for a morsel of material about the grandfather she never knew, California Impressionist Tilden Daken (1876–1935). There, a serendipitous happenstance would alter her destiny. Since that day, Bonnie has written Daken’s biography and is currently seeking publication.

Famous in his time, Tilden Daken was one of the most adventurous artists of the American West. Born in Illinois and raised in California, he is best known for oil paintings of the redwoods, the High Sierra, Marin and Sonoma Counties, as well as the sunrises and sunsets of Southern California. He also painted in Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, Hawaii, Mexico, Baja, and the East Coast. And mastering what few artists in history have even attempted, he painted scenes beneath the sea in a custom-built diving bell.

His insatiable appetite for nature and adventure shaped a lifetime of painting en plein air. His story includes working as a mine mucker in the California Mother Lode, his experience in the 1906 earthquake, his adventures with Jack London, his intrepid winters painting in the Sierra, his entanglement in the Mexican Revolution, penning autobiographical short stories, painting to music, hobnobbing with film stars and directors in Hollywood, his ill-fated journey to paint the headhunters of New Guinea, his enchanting home in the redwoods of Mill Valley, and much more.

Lake Lagunitas and Mt Tamalpais. Oil painting by Tilden Daken. © Bonnie Portnoy

According to art critic Harry Noyes Pratt:

“Few Men have had such varied experiences as Tilden Daken. Whether he was braving the Mexican war between Villa and Carranza, where he was wounded three times and once held prisoner of war for eight weeks, or dancing around like a crazy man to keep from freezing to death while painting the Piute Pass in midwinter; facing unknown terrors of the ocean depths to secure true submarine views; tempting the headhunters of New Guinea or riding the brake beams with his friend Jack London-always he thought of his art and sought to put true pictures of the world around him on canvas.” (Berkeley Daily Gazette, October 6, 1927.)

Originally published at https://annetkent.kontribune.com.

The official Medium account of the archive of Marin County history & culture at the Marin County Free Library http://tinyurl.com/MarinCoSocialMedia