Posing in his studio in Mill Valley, California, c. 1928.
Tilden Daken (also known as Tilden Dakin; see Signature Styles) was a California Impressionist active during the first three decades of the 20th century. He painted en plein air, directly from nature to capture the atmospheric light of the day. He is best known for his oil paintings of the California redwoods, the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the rolling hills of Marin and Sonoma counties, and the Channel Islands and Southern California. He also painted in Alaska, Oregon, Mexico, Baja California, Hawaii, the South Seas, and parts of the East Coast. Unique to any painter of his day, he captured scenes beneath the sea in a custom-built diving bell, the “Submarine Studio.” Mostly self-taught, he was prolific, with more than 4000 paintings to his credit. His works are held by at least eight museums, he is referenced in more than two-dozen books, and he was captured on film by at least three Hollywood directors. In the 1920s, he published autobiographical short stories describing some of his most celebrated adventures: “Experiences in the Rugged West” and “In the Grip of an Octopus.”
Tilden Daken painting in a field near Bootjack, CA in 1931. Admirers are his second wife, Florence (right), and her sister Cora.
Northern California Garden Scene
In the Valley of the Moon, Mount Sonoma in Distance
On the Trail to Big Lagoon, Mount Tamalpais
Red Sky at Night
On the Bank of a River, Sonoma County
A Life of Legend
Art historians say no plein air artist went to greater extremes to capture the rugged wilderness of the American West on canvas.
He painted in more than two dozen national and state preserves, including Tahoe National Forest, Yosemite National Park, and Kings Canyon National Park. He became known as the “Official Painter of the National Parks of the United States.”
Among Tilden’s notable acquaintances, a part of his story:
Jack London, celebrated novelist;
Pancho Villa, legendary bandito;
James D. Phelan, philanthropist, San Francisco Mayor, and United States Senator;
Sophie Tucker, voluptuous vaudeville star;
Andrew Blackiston, author, adventurer, anthropologist, business tycoon in Mexico;
Aimee Semple McPherson, Los Angeles Pentecostal evangelist who gained nationwide celebrity with her weekly radio sermons at Angelus Temple, one of the first megachurches;
Aline Barnsdall, eccentric oil heiress who brought Frank Lloyd Wright to Los Angeles to design her Hollyhock House on Olive Hill, now the Barnsdall Art Park;
Virginia Lee Corbin, silent film actress and flapper in the 1920s;
Hal Roach, American film and television producer, director, and actor known for producing the “Laurel and Hardy” and “Our Gang” film comedy series;
William Keith, Tilden’s mentor and a friend of John Muir’s, Keith was a Scottish-American painter famous for his California landscapes.