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Couple Finds Last Works Of Sculptor Douglas Tilden

August 22, 1988

BELMONT, Calif. (AP) _ A couple who paid $100 for a stack of sealed boxes at a grab bag auction believes they have uncovered one of the most exciting finds in California art history.

Jack and Linda Liberati, who bought the crates on an impulse at a Bekins Van and Storage Co., auction, found they contained 70 plaster-of-paris statues, paintings, sketches and other works by artist Douglas Tilden, a sculptor who died in obscurity after capturing international acclaim at the turn of the century.

The couple, who indicated they hope to sell the collection, had no idea what was in the boxes when they bought them last spring at an auction.

″I thought they were tool boxes,″ Liberati said Sunday.

Inside were casts of statues of historic figures including Father Junipero Serra and dozens of diplomas and prizes all bearing the name Douglas Tilden.

The next day, Liberati went to the public library and discovered that Tilden died broke and forgotten in his Berkeley studio in 1935 after winning international fame for his monumental public sculptures, including the Mechanics Monument, the Admissions Day Monument and a heroic group honoring the Spanish-American War, all statues along San Francisco’s Market Street.

They learned Tilden was a deaf mute and, according to one newspaper obituary, ″the greatest and most tragic of California sculptors.″

The Liberatis say the 20 crates contain works found in Tilden’s studio the day he died at the age of 75.

Among the casts is a piece Tilden never cast but had planned to call ″The Bridge,″ showing a young man and woman kneeling in an embrace across the waters of the San Francisco Bay.

″When the bridge is finished,″ Tilden wrote, ″I shall place this on Telegraph Hill to live with the bridge forever.″

When monumental sculpture went out of style, Tilden never regained the acclaim he knew as a youth. By 1930, he was destitute and died five years later in a studio where the electricity had been cut off.

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