Phil Dike grew up in Redlands, California, and studied at the Chouinard School of Art in Los Angeles from 1924 to 1927. There, he met artist Millard Sheets (1907–1989), who would become a lifelong friend. Dike went to New York in 1929 to study at the Art Students League. He also studied in the studio of artist George Luks (1867–1933) and exhibited with Luk’s students at the New York Water Color Club. Returning to Los Angeles, he taught at Chouinard for a year before traveling to Europe and studying for a year in France at the American Academy of Fontainebleau. He resumed teaching at Chouinard in 1931; then, in 1935, he became a color coordinator and story designer for Walt Disney Studios, contributing to such animated classics as Fantasia and Snow White. His tenure with Disney lasted until 1945. With an educational background that was grounded in realism, Dike was a prominent member of the California regionalist movement of the 1930s and 1940s.
A close friend of artist Rex Brandt (1914–2000), the two founded the Brandt-Dike Summer School in 1947 at Brandt’s home in Corona del Mar. In 1950, Dike joined the faculty of Scripps College and the Claremont Graduate Schools. At this time, he abandoned a strictly realist approach and began to abstract his forms. By the 1960s, his work had reached nearly pure abstraction. The dominant subject matter of his work was the sea and man’s relationship to it. Bustling beach and harbor scenes dominated his subject matter in the 1930s and 1940s. However, as his work became more abstract, the human elements were reduced to mystical forms, and the elements of sky, sea, and sand were reduced to striated, textured patterns.
Dike retired from teaching in 1970 but continued to make his home in Claremont. As a professor emeritus, he influenced many young artists long after his retirement. In his last decades, Dike, a sensitive man, also wrote poetry that expressed his feelings about the sea and man’s relationship to it.
Oil on canvas, 1951
40 x 30 inches
Gift of the Virginia Steele Scott Foundation
Oil on canvas, 1948
51 x 37 inches
Gift of the Gerald H. Payne