Painting on the rocky coastline at Lands End, San Francisco, 1915.

The Legacy Project

Tilden Daken’s Granddaughter is Preserving His Legacy

“The actual is more astounding than the imaginary,” Tilden Daken once said of his own life. Famous in his day, he was one of the most adventurous painters in the West, his art is revered by thousands of collectors, and yet most know little about his past. Now his incomparable life and substantial oeuvre is being brought to the forefront by the granddaughter he never knew, Bonnie Portnoy. Over the past two decades, she has gathered a treasure trove of material, discovering his paintings, unraveling his mysteries, and proving, as her mother Edith–the elder of Tilden’s two daughters both born in Glen Ellen during the Jack London years–stated, “He was filled with wanderlust.”

A Book is in the Works

Bonnie is seeking publication for her grandfather’s biography, The Man Beneath the Paint–Artist Tilden Daken, His Life and Times, 1876-1935.  The account is based on family lore, hundreds of newspaper articles, his letters to public figures, and the autobiographical short stories he penned. His story reveals not only his unrivaled adventures and personal struggles but the many notable individuals with whom he mingled—politicians, activists, Hollywood celebrities, naturalists, writers, journalists, and other California Impressionists.  Set in the cultural and historical context of his time–California at the turn of the 20th century–the richly illustrated art book dramatizes the many intriguing, little-known sides of the artist and the extremes he endured to capture his scenes on canvas:

Art historian Edan Hughes said Tilden’s story is “long overdue” and “movie material.” Editor Susan Schader, who has long worked in the film industry in story development, concurs: “Tilden’s incredible, unparalleled life is the stuff of stardust and celluloid. Even the most imaginative of screenwriters couldn’t create a character as memorable, and a story as dramatic, moving and compelling.”

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, traveling extensively in Europe and Asia. As art historian for her grandfather, she has established the Tilden Daken Legacy Project, leading her to art historians, authors, museum curators, galleries, auction houses, and the many passionate collectors who have joined in her mission to secure his place in history.


Bonnie wants to hear from Tilden Daken collectors!

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April 3, 2019, 7 p.m.:

"Tilden Daken--The Mill Valley Years"    Bonnie Portnoy will be speaking about her grandfather at the Mill Valley Library on April 3 at 7 p.m., as guest of the Mill Valley Historical Society.

January 2016:

"Sonoma's Depot Park Museum takes visitors back in time." Santa Rosa Press Democrat reporter, Dianne Reber Hart, writes about “A Brush with the Past,” an exhibition of works by Sonoma County artists including Tilden Daken. His granddaughter, Bonnie Portnoy, presented a lecture at the museum about his life and art.

"Sylvia Crawford shares the latest news from Glen Ellen."  Sonoma Index-Tribune reporter writes about “A Brush with the Past:” "Among the artful offerings in that show is Tilden Dakin’s beautiful view of Sonoma Creek in Glen Ellen. Long one of my favorite historical paintings, I bet posters of that piece would sell wildly in our town."

"A Brush with the Past at Sonoma's Depot Museum."  A review by Sonoma Valley Sun of Tilden Daken's life and his works exhibited in "A Brush with the Past."

May 2014: 

Glen Ellen Historical Society chooses a Tilden Daken Glen Ellen painting as its avatar on their Facebook page.

September 2013: 

A retrospective on Tilden Daken in "Lines and Colors." Charley Parker,  plein air painter, webcomics artist, cartoonist, illustrator, and web site designer featured an article on Tilden Daken on his blog, "Lines and Colors."

February 2013:

"Safe Haven for Painter Daken."   Article in Sonoma County Historical Society's Sonoma Historian, contributed by granddaughter Bonnie Portnoy:  Tilden Daken and his wife move to Glen Ellen after losing their home and the artist's studio in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and firestorm.

December 2012: 

"How Author London, Artist Daken Met."  Article in  Sonoma County Historical Society's Sonoma Historian, contributed by granddaughter Bonnie PortnoyTilden Daken and Jack London meet atop a haystack in the Reno rail yard in 1901. Together they ride a freight train over Donner Summit to Oakland, clinging to the brake-beam.

July 2012:

Save the Redwoods League displays Tilden Daken's "Stroll Through the Redwoods" as their Facebook cover photo. reporter Sylvia Crawford reports on Glen Ellen Historical Society meeting and slide show of Tilden Daken paintings.

April 2012:

Welcome to the new site, honoring the man, his spirit of adventure, and his art.
One century ago, Tilden Daken returns to San Francisco after living in Sonoma County for five years following the 1906 earthquake. Construction is underway for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, and hundreds of international artists, including Tilden Daken, will soon be exhibiting at the Palace of Fine Arts.