Tilden Daken: The Art of Adventure

December 9, 2023 – Now extended until March 30, 2024

Tilden Daken (1876-1935) was a California landscape painter known primarily for his oil paintings of the California redwoods, the Sierra Nevada mountains, and countryside scenes in both Northern and Southern California. He is closely associated with the California Impressionists, who painted during the first three decades of the twentieth century. Daken’s life, travels, and adventures paralleled many of the important stories of California - from the Gold Fields, to the growth of San Francisco and the rise of Hollywood, to the state’s connections across the southern border with Mexico.

A well-known artist in his time, Daken was particularly famous for his pursuit of “rugged adventures” in California and beyond. After losing his San Francisco home and studio in the 1906 earthquake and fire, Daken moved to Glen Ellen in Sonoma County, rekindling a friendship with Jack London after having spent time train hopping with the writer in 1901. Daken also worked as a mine mucker in the California Mother Lode, briefly fought in the Mexican Revolution, and hobnobbed with film stars and directors in Hollywood. His artistic adventures included spending winters painting outdoors in the High Sierra, painting scenes beneath the sea in a custom-built diving bell, creating experimental work to music in the “key of red,”and taking a journey to paint the tribal “headhunters” of New Guinea.

Tilden Daken’s Granddaughter is Preserving His Legacy

The artist’s life and work have been brought to the fore by his granddaughter, Bonnie Portnoy, who has written the first comprehensive and fully illustrated monograph of Tilden Daken’s life. Examining the cultural and historical context of Daken’s time – California at the turn of the twentieth century – Portnoy’s monograph reveals the many intriguing sides of the artist, his unrivaled adventures to capture his scenes on canvas, and the many notable people with whom he mingled—politicians, activists, Hollywood celebrities, naturalists, writers, journalists, and other California Impressionists.

The book, The Man Beneath the Paint: California Impressionist Tilden Daken, is scheduled to be released in March of 2024.

Join us for a special talk with Bonnie Portnoy on January 11th! 

Museum of Sonoma County
425 Seventh Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
(707) 579-1500

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The mission of the Museum of Sonoma County is to engage and inspire our diverse community with art and history exhibitions, collections, and public programs that are inclusive, educational, and relevant.