Posing in his studio in Mill Valley, California, c. 1928.
Tilden Daken (also known as Tilden Dakin; see Signature Styles) is known as a California Impressionist, the second generation of artists in the American West who painted in Northern and Southern California during the first three decades of the twentieth century. Historians say he painted more than 4000 works. Mostly self-taught, his en plein air style is rooted in the genres of Realism, Academic Art, Barbizon, Tonalism, and American Impressionism. Unique to any painter of his day, he also captured scenes beneath the Pacific Ocean in a custom-built diving bell, the “Submarine Studio.” He is primarily known for his paintings of the California redwoods, Sierra Nevada Mountains, Sonoma County’s Valley of the Moon, Marin County’s Mount Tamalpais, Southern California’s sunrises and sunsets, California State Parks, and national parks in the West. He also painted in Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, Hawaii, Mexico, Baja, the South Seas, and parts of the East Coast. At least eight museums hold his works, he is referenced in two-dozen books, and Hollywood directors filmed him in his diving bell. 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.”
Notable among Tilden’s acquaintances:
Jack London, celebrated novelist (in their youth they rode the brake beams of a freight train from Reno to Oakland, and resumed their friendship when Tilden moved to Glen Ellen after the 1906 earthquake);
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 national celebrity with her weekly radio sermons at Angelus Temple, the megachurch she built;
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.