The Man Beneath the Paint:  California Impressionist Tilden Daken

The Man Beneath the Paint: California Impressionist Tilden Daken

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This is the first fully illustrated biography of artist Tilden Daken (1876-1935). His incomparable life and substantial oeuvre have been brought to the fore by granddaughter Bonnie Portnoy. Though she never knew him, she has unearthed a treasure trove of material — his art, stories of his expeditions, his friendships with noted personalities of the era, and his coast-to-coast exhibitions. Famous in his day, he was one of the most prolific and adventurous painters in the American West. He painted in every California state park and national park in the West—from the Sierra Nevada mountains, to the California redwoods, to seascapes and countryside scenes, and beneath the Pacific Ocean in a custom-built diving bell. A portrait of perpetual motion, he ventured on art expeditions to Hawaii, the South Seas, Mexico, and Baja California. A pal of writer Jack London, the two first met in the Reno railyard in 1901, and resumed their friendship in 1906 in Glen Ellen in Sonoma County where Daken moved to after losing his home and studio in the 1906 earthquake and fire. In Mazatlán in 1914, Daken was caught in the cross fire of the Mexican Revolution, then returned to San Francisco to participate in the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. In Hollywood in the 1920s, he hobnobbed with film stars and directors, painted in the “key of red,” and sailed to New Guinea to paint the headhunters. He died at the age of 58 and is buried in the Pioneer Cemetery in Georgetown, California.


  • Blurb on back cover by Armando Quintero, director of California state parks.
  • Blurb on front flap by Nancy Dustin Wall Moure, noted California art historian and author.
  • Foreword by Matt Leffert, executive director of Jack London Park Partners.

Format: Hardcover, 327 pages

Illustrations: 240, paintings and historical photographs

Endpapers: paintings of the Lake Tahoe region, 1922. 

Trim size: 10-1/4 x 9-1/2