Scripps Opens Philip Latimer Dike’s Chasing Daylight

The Scripps College Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery is currently displaying “Chasing Daylight,” an exhibition of
exquisite watercolor and oil paintings by artist Philip Latimer Dike. “Chasing Daylight” draws on Dike’s early career, between 1927 and 1943. 

The gallery chose Dike (1906-1990) because of his long relationship with Scripps.

“Having taught in Claremont
for more than twenty years, his work and contributions have been significant to
the development of the art community in Claremont and Southern California,” said Kirk Delman, Registrar and Collection Manager at the Williamson
Gallery.

Dike played an important role in the landscape arts during the 1930s and 1940s. Thanks to his
landscapes of Los Angeles and Newport Beach, Dike became recognized as the leading
artistic figure of the West. His watercolor paintings later became known as the Californian Style.

Dike had
a poetic sense of nature; he did not only paint what he saw in the architecture
and street scenes, but also conveyed an emotional experience to the audience
through the canvas. For Dike, an artist’s goal is not to paint what he sees but rather to invoke a memory through the piece.  

In
Dike’s mind, “a painting is good, not because it looks like something, but
rather because it feels like something,” according to biographers Janice
Lavoos and Gordon McClelland. 

“The flight of the creative
process, like the flight of birds, is unpredictable. Whenever art becomes
predictable, it is something apart from art,” Dike used to say.

In Europe, Dike studied drawing at the American Academy of Art at
Fontainebleau, lithography in Italy, and printmaking at the Atelier Dorfinant. 

During
the Great Depression, Dike’s contemporaries portrayed the economic hardship,
poverty, and daily struggles of Americans while he tried to capture Southern
Californian landscapes that gave the viewers a sense of peace and escape.

“The early works were influenced by the realist approach taught
by George Luks, his teacher at the Arts Student League in New York. [He] later
abandoned it to develop a more lyrical and personal style that embraced the
natural elements that he found he in Southern California,” Delman said.

“[Many]
of the works in this exhibition have become iconic,” he continued. “[These] include ‘Pulling in the Nets,’ 1928, [and] ‘California Holiday,’ 1933.”

“Pulling in the Nets” demonstrates the synthesis of expressive
brush stroke and his unique portrayal of the atmosphere to express emotions.

“California Holiday” depicts the mixture of landscape and
civilization, and the harmony that the two create next to each other.

From
1935-1945, Dike worked for Walt Disney Studios as adviser and color director
for animated films, including major motion pictures like Fantasia and Snow White. In 1947, Dike co-founded the Brandt-Dike Summer School of Painting in Corona
del Mar. Three years later, the Director of
Painting at Scripps offered Dike a post as Professor of Art at Scripps and at Claremont Graduate School, where he taught until
1971. Through his teaching, Dike wanted his students to understand the goodness
of life and to see the ephemeral and dynamic qualities of color and light in
nature.

“Dike used watercolor as a primary means to express the
bountiful beauty and light found in Southern California,” Delman said. 

Dike’s style drastically changed throughout the years. By the 1960s, his
work had become much more abstract.

“A lot of [Dike’s] works are very well known
for the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. His early works did not have much exposure,” said Jan Blair, Head Guard of the Gallery. “We are very lucky to have a collection
of his early pieces. [Aside from the] seven paintings the gallery owns, all his
work are part of [the Dike family’s] private collection, which not many have
seen. It is really interesting to see the dynamism in his work.”

The
exhibition features over 50 paintings, including a
self-portrait of the artist hung on the entrance wall of the gallery. 

“Chasing Daylight” will be on display until Oct. 13. The Williamson gallery is open from Wednesday to Sunday between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m., and admission is free.

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