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:
- living through the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire;
- “riding the rails” with his friend Jack London;
- painting beneath the sea in a custom-built diving bell;
- braving the Mexican Revolution and Pancho Villa and his forces to secure a Mexican exhibit at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition;
- spending frigid winters in spartan conditions to paint in the High Sierra;
- embarking on a South Seas expedition with anthropologist Andrew Blackiston to paint the headhunters of New Guinea;
- painting to music in the “key of red” during his years in Hollywood, and much more.
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!
Write to: firstname.lastname@example.org.