The Legacy Project
Tilden Daken’s Granddaughter is Preserving His Legacy
A famous painter in his day, his art is revered by thousands of collectors, yet most know little about his past. He was an enigma even to his family until Bonnie Portnoy, the granddaughter he never knew, began to unravel his mysteries. He has been gone for more than seven decades and now his amazing stories are being brought to the forefront. The passionate artist often trekked into the wilderness on extended painting expeditions, leaving his wife and two young daughters to fend for themselves (Bonnie’s grandmother, mother, and aunt). While her mother was still living, Bonnie embarked on a decade-long journey to find her grandfather’s paintings and explore his past. Having unearthed a treasure trove of material, she is writing a book (as yet unpublished).
A Book is in the Works
Tilden Daken; The Man Beneath the Paint is a richly illustrated historical non-fiction art book, the biography of Tilden Daken (1876–1935), the noted California Impressionist. Set in the cultural and historical context of his time–California at the turn of the 20th century–the book dramatizes the many intriguing, little-known sides of the artist and the extremes he endured to capture his scenes on canvas: his experience in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake; his friendship with Jack London; his adventures while painting beneath the sea in a custom-built diving bell; the renegade who stands with Pancho Villa during the Mexican Revolution to secure a Mexican exhibit at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition; his intrepid winters painting in the High Sierra; his South Seas expedition with anthropologist Andrew Blackiston to paint the headhunters of New Guinea; his innate display of synesthesia during his Hollywood years when he painted to music in the “key of red,” and much more. Art historian Edan Hughes said Daken’s story is “long overdue.” Editor Elissa Rabellino wrote: “This all couldn’t possibly have happened to one person! It’s just fascinating.” And Tilden Daken once said of his experiences: “The actual is more astounding than the imaginary.”
Based on unique and true experiences the likes of which no other painter of his day achieved, his story is an accurate portrayal of events as chronicled in hundreds of newspaper articles from 1898 to 1935. It characterizes the artist’s personal struggles as revealed in letters he wrote to public figures and reveals the many notable individuals with whom he mingled—politicians, activists, Hollywood celebrities, naturalists, writers, journalists, and other California Impressionists. His two known autobiographical short stories are featured in the book: “Experiences in the Rugged West” and “In the Grip of an Octopus.”
About Bonnie Portnoy
A native Californian born in Marin County, Bonnie held senior management positions in merchandising, marketing, and operations for four respected San Francisco Bay Area-based specialty retail companies, and traveled extensively in Europe, Asia, and India. As art historian for her grandfather, she has established the Tilden Daken Legacy Project, leading her to art historians and authors, museum curators, galleries, and the many passionate collectors who have joined in her mission to secure his place in history.
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