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 Douglas Tilden  (1860 - 1935)

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Lived/Active: California      Known for: sculptor-sports figure, monument

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Douglas Tilden
An example of work by Douglas Tilden
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
One of the first, and perhaps the first California-born sculptor to receive recognition outside the United States, Douglas Tilden completed figure works as well as public monuments including the fountain at Bush and Market Streets in San Francisco, the figure of Father Junipero Serra, the Baseball Player in Golden Gate Park and Football Players at UC Berkeley.

Mildred Albronda has written Tilden's definitive biography, Douglas Tilden: The Man and His Legacy, from the access she had to his private papers, which are stored at the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley. Her interest in Tilden came from her increasing understanding of the problems of deaf persons, when she was a docent at the M.H. de Young Museum in San Francisco and became a charter member of Docents of the Deaf. (see

Born in Chico, California, to a pioneer family, Tilden was deaf, and also was unable to speak as a result of a bout of scarlet fever when he was age five. He attended the Institute for the Deaf, Dumb and Blind in Berkeley, graduating in 1879.

When he was 23, he became interested in sculpture, and studied with F. Marion Wells and Virgil Williams at the School of Design. In 1887, he went to New York City, having earned a traveling scholarship from the deaf school. He studied at the National Academy of Design and Gotham Art League, and after that, he went to Paris, where he studied with Paul Chopin.

Tilden returned to San Francisco in 1894 and became the first instructor of sculpture at the Mark Hopkins Institute, a position he held until 1901, when he resigned to work full time on his own sculpture commissions. In 1915, he had a dispute with the organizers of the Pacific International Exposition and became so embittered that he was inactive for a decade. His wife divorced him in 1926, and he became reclusive in his studio in the Berkeley hills and died impoverished in 1935. Posthumously, he has come to be regarded as one of America's most accomplished sculptors.

Edan Hughes, Artists in California, 1786-1940

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Chico, CA on May 1, 1860. After a bout with scarlet fever left Tilden deaf at age five, he was educated at the Institute for the Deaf in Berkeley. He graduated from that school in 1879 and continued there as an instructor until 1887. At age 23 he became interested in sculpting and studied briefly with F. Marion Wells and for a few months with Virgil Williams at the School of Design.

Awarded a traveling scholarship from the deaf school, in 1887 he left for NYC where he studied under Ward and Mowbray at the NAD and Gotham Art League.  He then sailed for Paris to study with Paul Choppin. Tilden returned to San Francisco in 1894 and accepted a position as the first instructor of sculpture at the Mark Hopkins Institute. He held this position until 1901 when he resigned to devote full time to fulfilling commissions. He was asked to contribute to the statuary at the Panama Pacific Exposition in 1915, but a dispute with the directors of the exposition prevented this and led to a decade of inactivity.

After his wife divorced him in 1926, he became a recluse in his Berkeley hills studio and his output was very limited. Tilden died there a lonely and penniless old man on Aug. 6, 1935. Today he is nationally recognized as one of America's greatest sculptors.

Member: SFAA; Bohemian Club; NSS. Exh: Société des Artistes Français and Société Nat'l des Beaux Arts (Paris), 1889, 1890, 1892-94; World's Columbian Expo (Chicago), 1893; Paris Expo, 1900 (bronze medal); Pan-American Expo (Buffalo), 1901; Louisiana Purchase Expo (St Louis), 1904 (gold medal); Alaska-Yukon Expo (Seattle), 1909 (gold medal); SFMA, 1935. In: LA Court House grounds (Stephen White Memorial); Golden Gate Park (Junipero Serra, Balboa, Baseball Player); UC Berkeley (Football Players); Olympic Club (Boxer); Mechanics' Fountain, Market St. (SF); Oregon Volunteers (Portland); St Mary's College (Moraga); Calif. Volunteers, Dolores & Market streets (SF).
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
100 Years of Calif. Sculpture; American Art Annual 1919; Who's Who in California 1928; California Art Research, 20 volumes; Who's Who in American Art 1936 (obituary); SF Chronicle, 8-7-1935 (obituary).
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

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