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 Phil Latimer Dike  (1906 - 1990)

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Lived/Active: California/Arizona      Known for: mod coastal-town-landscape and regional scene painting

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Ad Code: 2
Phil Dike
from Auction House Records.
Entrance to the Harbor
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Known as the intellectual and artistic leader of the California watercolor artists, Phil Dike was strongly influenced by avant-garde* painters Georgia O'Keeffe, John Marin, and Charles Burchfield.

He was born in Redlands, California, and was exposed to art from his childhood because his grandmother, Eliza Twigg, was a painter.  He first studied art in high school with Mary Louise Arnold whom Dike later described as so sombre and dressed in such heavy shoes that she looked "like Washington crossing the Delaware" (Edan Hughes).

In 1924, he began his art education at Chouinard Art Institute* in Los Angeles, and in 1928 went to the Art Students League* in New York where he studied with Frank DuMond and George Luks.  He traveled throughout Europe and studied for a year, 1930, in France at the American Academy of Fontainebleau, and exhibited at that time at the Paris Salon.

He returned to Los Angeles where he taught at Chouinard's for twenty years and also worked in the fine art department of Walt Disney Studios where from 1934 to 1944, he was Color Coordinator and worked on animated classics including Fantasia and Snow White.   He was the first artist to put color into Disney animations*.

From 1950 to 1971, he was on the faculty of Scripps College and Claremont Graduate School.

He first went to Arizona in 1931 during the Depression and returned to paint copper mining scenes, where he depicted a thriving copper mining industry of both open pit and underground mines.  Some of his locations were Jerome, northwest of Phoenix, and Globe and Morenci east and south of Phoenix.

His paintings can be found at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio and the Pasadena Art Institute in California. He also did work in ceramic tile including the entrance of the St. San Antonio College Fine Arts Center and the pool area of Scripps College, and the chapel of Claremont Community Congregational Church.

Edan Hughes, Artists in California, 1786-1940
Peter Falk, Who Was Who in American Art

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Biography from
Phil Dike, N.A. (1906-1990)...Born: Redlands, CA

Studied: Chouinard Art Institute* (Los Angeles), Art Students League* (New York), American Academy (France)

Member: National Academy of Design*, American Watercolor Society*, California Water Color Society*, Philadelphia Water Color Club.

Phil Dike was born and raised in Southern California.  In 1923, he was awarded a scholarship to study at the Chouinard Art Institute* and received instruction from E Tolles Chamberlin and Clarence Hinkle.  He continued his art education in New York City studying with George Bridgman, Frank Vincent DuMond and George Luks.  After returning to California in 1929, he began teaching at the Chouinard Art Institute and was one of the first artists to develop what became known as the California Style* of watercolor painting.

In the early 1930s, he continued teaching and painting and took further studies in Paris.  His watercolors were being exhibited in museum shows throughout America and he was receiving wide acclaim and numerous awards.  By 1935, he was also working at the Walt Disney Studios where he taught art and color theory while working on animated films.  Among the many classic films he worked on were Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia and The Three Caballeros.  In 1938, Dike served as president of the California Water Color Society.

After World War 11, Dike left Disney and went back into teaching and painting full time.  He and Rex Brandt formed the highly successful Brandt-Dike Summer School of Painting and during regular school months, he taught at the Chouinard Art Institute.  It was at this time that Dike's watercolors became more modern looking.  He began using calligraphy* in very creative ways and incorporating geometric-abstractionist ideas into his work.

Through the 1950s and 1960s, he was a Professor of Art at Scripps College and Claremont Graduate School.  He was an inspiration to many well-known artists who came out of these schools, and was honored with the title of Professor Emeritus when he retired.  In addition to living in Claremont and painting at Balboa Bay, Dike also built a second home in Cambria on the central California coast. Harbors, driftwood, figures on the beach and dramatic rock formations all became subjects for his many abstract watercolors of this era.

Dike is remembered as a thoughtful, caring teacher and is one of the main innovators in the development of the watercolor painting movement in California.

Gordon T. McClelland and Jay T. Last. California Watercolors 1850-1970
Interview with Phil Dike, 1983

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Biography from Sparrow Fine Art & Antiques:
Phil Dike, a native southern Californian, was one of the leading California Style watercolor artists beginning in the early 1930s.  This style, which flourished from the mid 1920s to the 1950s, gave a bold new look and new acceptance to watercolor as a medium for finished painting.

Dike studied at Chouinard Art Institute with F. Tolles Chamberlin and Clarence Hinkle and at the Art Students League in New York, and then learned fresco painting and mural decoration at the American Academy in Fontainebleau, France.

Between 1935 and 1945, he was a color consultant, designer, and instructor for Disney Studios.  From 1950-1969 he was a professor of art at Scripps College and Claremont Graduate School.  He also did altar pieces for churches, mosaic decorations, illustrations for national publications, and limited- edition lithographs and serigraphs.

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at

Phil Dike is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
The California Art Club
California Painters

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