1911 (Oakland, California)
2000 (Manhattan, New York)
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watercolor modernist urban views-harbors, genre painting
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|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|The following obituary is from Dong Kingman Jr., son of the artist
whose website is www.dongkingman.org. The website gives
information on the artist's national touring retrospective, "Dong
Kingman - An American Master." |
DONG KINGMAN (1911-2000)
Kingman, the world-renowned artist and teacher, died in his sleep on
May 12, 2000 at age 89 in his home in Manhattan. The cause was
Long acknowledged as an American watercolor
master, he has received an extraordinary number of awards and honors
throughout his 70-year career in the arts. Included are two Guggenheim
fellowships in 1942 and 1943; the San Francisco Art Association First
Purchase Prize, 1936; Audubon Artist Medal of Honor, 1946; Philadelphia
Watercolor Club Joseph Pennel Memorial Medal, 1950; Metropolitan Museum
of Art Award, and the National Academy Design 150th Anniversary Gold
Medal Award, 1975.
In 1987, the American Watercolor Society
awarded Dong Kingman its highest honor, the Dolphin Medal, "for having
made outstanding contributions to art especially to that of watercolor."
work is represented in the permanent collections of 50 museums and
universities, including the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, M.H. deYoung
Memorial Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney
Museum, Museum of Modern Art, Art Institute of Chicago, Pennsylvania
Academy of Fine Arts, Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery and Sculpture
Garden, Des Moines Art Center, Columbus Museum of Arts and Crafts,
Brooklyn Museum and Hirshhorn Museum.
Born in Oakland,
California in 1911 of Chinese descent, Kingman moved to Hong Kong at
age five. He studied art and calligraphy in his formative years at the
Lingnan School. The painting master Szeto Wai had recently
studied art in Paris and took a keen interest in young Dongs precocious
talents. He taught him both Chinese classical and French
Impressionist styles of painting. Kingman returned home to
Oakland when he was 18 at the height of the Depression. He worked
as a newsboy and dishwasher to make ends meet.
When he was
employed as a houseboy for the Drew family in San Francisco, he painted
every spare moment. In a year, he created enough pictures to have
a one-man show at the Art Center. It attracted the attention of
San Francisco art critics who raved about Kingmans unique style.
Wrote Junius Cravens of the San Francisco News: "That young
Chinese artist is showing 20 of the freshest and most satisfying
watercolors that have been seen hereabouts in many a day Kingman
already has developed that universal quality which may place a sincere
artist work above the limitations of either racial characteristics or
schools. Kingmans art belongs to the world at large today."
Dong Kingman became an overnight success.
From 1936 to 1941, he
was a project artist for WPA and became a pioneer for a new school of
painting, the "California Style." His two Guggenheim fellowships
enabled him to travel the country painting American scenes. His
first one-man show in New York at Midtown Galleries in 1942 was well
received in the media, including Time, Newsweek, the New Yorker and American Artist. M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco held a major exhibit of his watercolors in 1945.
In 1951, Midtown presented a 10-year retrospective of his work. Time Magazine
wrote, "At age 40, Kingman is one of the worlds best
watercolorists." Other retrospectives, including Corcoran in
Washington,D.C. an d Witte Memorial Museum in San Antonio, were held
for the artist. Kingman moved to Wildenstein (1958-1969) where he had
successful exhibits in New York, London and Paris. Hammer Galleries
exhibited his paintings in the 70s, and then the artist expanded his
venues to the West Coast and Far East.
During World War II, he
served with the OSS in Washington, D.C. where he was a
cartographer. After his honorable discharge, Kingman moved to
Brooklyn Heights from San Francisco when he became a guest lecturer and
then art instructor at Columbia University (1946-1958). Hunter
College also appointed him instructor in watercolors and Chinese Art
(1948-1953). His teaching career continued with the Famous
Artists School, Westport, CT in 1953, joining such distinguished
artists on the faculty as Will Barnet, Stuart Davis, Norman Rockwell
and Ben Shahn.
He also became a teaching member for 40 years
for the Hewitt Painting Workshops, which conducts worldwide painting
tours. He taught at the Academy of Art College in San Francisco,
was a member of its board, and received an honorary doctorate from the
In 1954, the U.S. Department of State invited Kingman
to go on a cultural exchange program tour around the world to give
exhibitions and lectures and to meet local artists. When he came
home, he presented the State Department with a 40-foot long report on a
scroll, which later appeared in LIFE Magazine.
Kingman's most treasured experiences was his invitation by the Ministry
of Culture of the Peoples Republic of China to exhibit in that country
in 1981. He was the first American artist to be accorded a
one-man show since diplomatic relations resumed. More than
100,000 visitors attended his exhibitions in Beijing, Hangzhou and
Guangzhou and the retrospective received critical acclaim from the
Chinese press. Noted the China Daily Mail, "Just as the
master painters of the Song Dynasty roamed about mountain and stream to
capture the rhythm of nature, Dong Kingman traveled the world capturing
the dynamism of modern lifefamiliar scenes have been transformed into a
vibrant new vision of life through color schemes with rhythms that play
over the entire surface of the picture. The wind swept skies
which enliven his watercolors remind us of the pleinairism of the
Kingman, who has been fascinated with
movies since seeing his first film "The Thief of Baghdad",,
distinguished himself in this field as well. In 1954, the Academy
Award-winning cinematographer James Wong Howe directed and photographed
the exceptional 15-minute documentary, "Dong Kingman." Kingman
produced, directed and animated "Hong Kong Dong" which received the
Outstanding Achievement Award for Best Short Film at the San Francisco
International Film Festival in 1976.
beckoned the celebrated watercolorist. His watercolors were used
to set the visual moods in the films "Flower Drum Song" (Universal,
1961) and "55 Days At Peking" (Allied Artists, 1963), both giving the
artist film credit. He served as technical advisor for "The World
of Suzie Wong" (Paramount, 1964) and contributed his artwork to motion
pictures including "Circus World" (Paramount, 1964); "King Rat"
(Columbia, 1965); "The Sand Pebbles" (20th Century Fox, 1966); "The
Desperados" (Columbia, 1969) and "Lost Horizons" (Columbia, 1973).
the summer of 2000, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
highlighted Kingman's involvement in films with a special two-month
exhibition "Dong Kingman: An American Master in Hollywood" that
commemorated his film-related work in the permanent collection of the
Margaret Herrick Library at the Academy Center for Motion Picture Study
in Beverly Hills, CA.
His books include: The Watercolors of Dong Kingman, text by Alan D. Gruskin, introduction by William Soroyan (Crowell, 1958); San Francisco: City On Golden Hills, Herb Caen/Dong Kingman (Doubleday, 1967); Dong Kingmans Watercolors, with his wife Helena Kuo Kingman (Watson-Guptill, 1980); Paint the Yellow Tiger, Dong Kingman (Sterling, 1991); and Portraits of Cities, Dong Kingman (22nd Century Film Corp., 1997).
He has executed many commissions from magazine covers for Time, Life, Fortune, New York Times, and Saturday Review,
to murals for the Bank of California, Dime Savings Bank New York,
Ambassador Hotel, Hong Kong, and the Boca Raton Hotel. The mural East Meets West
that he painted for the Lingnan Restaurant in Manhattan was rescued,
restored and subsequently donated to the Brooklyn Public Library by
Roslyn and Eugene Gamiel in 1997. The mural is now installed in
the Librarys Multilingual Center. Among his posters, he created
the OpSail, 1976 and 1986 editions as well as the 100th Anniversary of the Olympics Games poster for the Games held in Atlanta.
his charitable activities, he was the honored guest of Hong Kong Rotary
International sponsored exhibit in June 1997 where the sale of his
works at the handover festivities raised $70,000 for charities in Hong
Kong. He contributed numerous watercolors to charitable
organizations, including the World Federation of United Nations
Association Limited Edition art program and UNICEF.
years, the Taipei Fine Arts Museum in Taiwan exhibited "40 Years of
Watercolors by Dong Kingman" from November 1994 through January
1995. In 1999, the Taichung Provincial Museum in Taiwan presented
a retrospective of Dong Kingmans watercolor paintings.
national touring retrospective,"Dong Kingman: An American Master" with
venues at the Governors Gallery, Legislative Building, Olympia, WA;
Chinese Culture Center, San Francisco, CA; Louisiana Arts & Science
Center, Baton Rouge, LA; and Brooklyn Public Library, N.Y. began in the
Fall of 2000 and closes at the end of 2001 in New York.
Washington's Governor Gary Locke commented,"I was looking at more than
just paintings. The artist deftly brings together elements of his
Chinese heritage and life in America. The paintings tell a story
of a mans quest to unite the best of both his worlds." The
retrospective is being organized by the Institute of Chinese Culture
and Arts and the curator is Monte James. Major funding is provided by
the Starr Foundation.
In 2001, activities honoring the artist
include the presentation of the first annual American Watercolor
Society Dong Kingman award; establishment of a Dong Kingman fellowship
in the Visual Arts Division at the Columbia University School of the
Arts; inclusion in the "Leading the Way"exhibit of pioneering Asia
American artists held at Gordon College, Massachusetts and an upcoming
Dong Kingman exhibition being planned by the Chinese Historical Society
of America to launch its new facilities in San Francisco.
|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|The following biography is from the website: www.dongkingman.org:|
DONG KINGMAN (1911 - 2000)
Kingman was born Dong Moy Shu on March 31, 1911 in Oakland, California.
At age five he returned with his family to Hong Kong where his father
established a dry goods business. According to Chinese custom, Kingman
was given his new name when he entered school. Hearing that he aspired
to be an artist, his teacher gave him the name of King (scenery) Man
(composition). In later years he combined the two words into Kingman
and following Chinese custom, he used the family name first and the
given name second, thus Dong Kingman.
At the Chan Sun Wen
School, Kingman excelled at calligraphy and watercolor painting, and
while his family, including his mother, an amateur painter, didn't
encourage him, he was not discouraged in his love of art. He studied
with Szeto Wai, the Paris-trained head of the Lingnan Academy, who
introduced Kingman to Northern European trends. Szeto Wai, he would
acknowledge, was his "first and only true influence."
returned to Oakland, California in his late teens in 1929 and attended
the Fox Morgan Art School while holding down a variety of jobs. Here
the artist decided to concentrate on watercolors. At the time, Charles
Burchfield, John Marin and George Grosz were the leading practitioners
of the medium. During the Depression era decade that followed, Kingman
would emerge as one of America's leading artists and a pioneer of the
California Style School of painting. A 1936 solo exhibition at the San
Francisco Art Association brought him instant success and national
recognition. Art critic Junius Cravens was effusive:
Chinese artist is showing twenty of the freshest, most satisfying,
watercolors that have been seen hereabouts in many a day . . .
landscapes and San Francisco street scenes, in which human figures
appear incidentally, predominate in Kingman's exhibition. He handles
his color fluently, in broad telling masses. He is never finicky. He is
completely sincere and never superficial. Here is a real watercolor
Reviewing the Second Annual Exhibition of Watercolors,
Pastels and Tempera on Paper, sponsored by the San Francisco Art
Association in 1937, art critic Alfred Frankenstein wrote:
Kingman is bold, free and joyous as always. He paints with soaked
light. He is San Francisco's A No. 1 watercolorist at the present
Frankenstein saw Kingman's early landscapes as "Mysterious
and somber - more Chinese," but as the artist matured and focused on
the city scene, there appeared a more "dramatic, excited and dynamic
tone," easily identified with twentieth century urban living. Kingman's
bold paintings of the urban scene, which was to become his main
subject, were observed by writers and critics as a synthesis of his
Oriental heritage and his fascination with Occidental modernism.
Defining a personal style, however, seemed never to concern the artist.
"I am Oriental when I paint trees and landscapes, but Occidental when I
paint buildings, ships or three-dimensional subjects with sunlight and
shadow." The artist characterized his style as merely, "my way of
Beginning in 1936, Kingman was a participating artist in
the Works Progress Administration (WPA) created by the federal
government to help support the arts. In the next five years he painted
nearly five hundred works for the relief program which not only helped
artists financially, but also made America aware of its own art. In
1941 Kingman earned the first of two, back to back, Guggenheim
Fellowships which allowed him to travel. During World War II he joined
the army and was assigned to the Office of Strategic Service at Camp
Beal, California and then Washington, D.C. The nature of his duties
allowed him to continue his career. After the war Kingman settled on
the East Coast, in Brooklyn, New York, assuming teaching positions at
Columbia University and Hunter College in 1946 for the next ten years.
1954 Kingman became a cultural ambassador for the United States in an
international lecture tour for the Department of State. He was also a
founding member of the Famous Artists Painting School of Westport,
Connecticut, which taught art by correspondence. Kingman became
involved in the film industry during the 1950's and 60's where he
served as technical advisor. In addition, he created brilliant main
title backgrounds for such films as "55 Days in Peking" and "Flower
Drum Song." Over three hundred of his film-related works are
permanently housed at the Center for Motion Picture Study at the Motion
Picture Academy's Margaret Herrick Library in Beverly Hills, California.
1981, Mainland China's Ministry of Culture hosted a critically
acclaimed exhibition of Kingman's paintings in Beijing, attended by
100,000 people. It was the first American one-man show since the
resumption of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China.
the 90's, Kingman's paintings were the subject of two major exhibitions
in Taiwan: the Taipei Modern Art Museum in 1995 and the Taichung
Provincial Museum in 1999.
Among his many awards and honors over
seven decades, The American Watercolor Society awarded him its highest
honor, the Dolphin Award, for outstanding contributions to art.
1940 to present, Kingman's exhibitions, throughout the United States,
have been almost yearly events and received by the public and press
with laudits and critical success.
|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|Born in Oakland, CA on March 31, 1911. When Kingman was five, his family moved to Hong Kong where he grew up and attended Lingnan Grammar School. The headmaster of the school, Szetu Wei, had studied painting in Paris and recognized his budding artistic talent. For several years he trained young Kingman in both oriental and occidental approaches to painting. Returning to San Francisco in 1929, Kingman became active in the local art scene and began painting scenes of the city. His first solo show at the San Francisco Art Center in 1936 brought immediate recognition. During the 1930s he spent five years working on commissions for the Federal Public Works of Art Project. During WWII he created maps and charts for the O.S.S. After the war Kingman settled in NYC and taught at Columbia University. His paintings were used as backdrops for the movie "Flower Drum Song" and his watercolors were reproduced in Life and on the covers of Fortune and Holiday magazines. Kingman died in NYC on May 12, 2000. Member: American WC Society; NA (1951). Exh: SFMA Inaugural, 1935; Vallejo Public Library, 1935; Calif. WC Society, 1935-44; SFAA, 1936 (1st prize); GGIE, 1939; San Diego FA Gallery, 1943; De Young Museum, 1945 (solo); County Fair (LA), 1949; Philadelphia WC Club, 1950 (medal); NAD, 1975 (gold medal). In: MM; SFMA; Boston Museum; Delaware Museum; Whitney Museum (NYC); MOMA; CHS; Brooklyn Museum; De Young Museum; San Diego Museum; Mills College (Oakland); AIC; NAD; Butler Art Inst. (Columbus, OH); Wilmington (DE) Society of FA; Toledo (OH) Museum; Dartmouth College; U.S. State Dept; Addison Gallery (Andover, MA); Evansville Museum.|
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Interview with the artist or his/her family; Who's Who in American Art 1940-70; California Art Research, 20 volumes; The Watercolors of Dong Kingman by Alan Gruskin; SF Chronicle, 5-16-2000 (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.|
|Biography from Kingsley Art Auction:|
|Dong King-Man was a Chinese-American artist and one of America’s leading
watercolor masters. He began his formal education after returning back
to China with his family at the age of 5; his name was given then by his
instructor which literally means “scenery” and “composition” in
Cantonese as he aspired to be an artist. He would later combine the two
names into Kingman, placing his family name first in accordance with
Chinese naming conventions, creating the name Dong Kingman. |
returned to the United States in his late teens. In 1929 he attended
the Fox Morgan Art School while holding down a variety of jobs. It was
at this time that he chose to concentrate on watercolor painting. His
critical breakthrough occurred in 1936, when he gained a solo exhibition
at the San Francisco Art Association which brought him national
recognition and success. He has won widespread critical acclaim; in
1987, the American Watercolor Society awarded him Dolphin Medal Award.
His works are included in over 50 public and private collections
worldwide, including Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts,
Boston; Brooklyn Museum; deYoung Museum and Art Institute, Chicago.
Besides, Kingman also worked as an illustrator in the film industry,
designing backgrounds for many major motion pictures. Over 300 of his
film-related works are permanently housed at the Fairbanks Center for
Motion Picture Study at the Margaret Herrick Library of the Academy of
Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, California.
|Biography from California Watercolor:|
|Dong Kingman, N.A. (1911-2000) Born: Oakland, CA; Studied: Ling Nan
School (Hong Kong); Member; National Academy of Design, American
Watercolor Society, California Water Color Society. Dong Kingman was
born in California of Chinese parents. While still a child, he returned
with them to China. There, Kingman received art instruction from
traditional Chinese watercolorists and Size-To-Wai, a Paris-educated
artist who was very knowledgeable about modern art trends. In 1929,
Kingman moved back to San Francisco and started producing watercolor
paintings depicting Bay Area cityscape subjects.|
Depression, Kingman did watercolors for the P.W.A. Art Relief project
in San Francisco and his works were included in the Frontiers of
American Art show. By the mid-1930s, when California watercolors were
beginning to receive national attention, Kingman was recognized as one
of the Bay Area’s finest watercolorists. The San Francisco Museum of
Art acquired a number of his works and exhibited them in numerous
In 1942, he was awarded a Guggenheim
Fellowship which enabled him to travel around the United States
painting watercolors of American scene subjects. When Kingman got to
New York City, he found it to his liking and produced a number of works
depicting cityscape subjects. He went into the service during World War
II and ended up producing art for the war effort in Washington, D.C.
After the war, he decided to live in New York City and spend less time
in San Francisco.
Kingman’s early works featured loose washes,
often done using a wet-into-wet technique, with some dry brush
calligraphy for definition. His post war works became increasingly
complex in subject matter and usually had a geometric, abstractionist
look. Between 1945 and 1965, he painted a large number of outstanding
cityscape watercolors of New York City and San Francisco. The best of
these woks have exceptional compositions, interesting subject matter
and an exciting sense of drama. They are among the finest examples of
American watercolor produced during this era.
In addition to
painting and exhibiting fine art, his works have been reproduced as
covers for Fortune and as article illustrations inside the magazine.
Life, Time, Westways and numerous other magazines also reproduced his
works. As an art instructor, he has taught at the Rhode Island School
of Design, Columbia University, Hunter College, Famous Artists School,
and has been the featured teacher at dozens of significant watercolor
workshops throughout the world.
Kingman’s watercolors are in
major museums throughout America and the Orient. There have been three
books written about his life and work, and a film documenting his
approach to watercolor painting was released in 1954.
Interview with Dong Kingman, 1994.
The Watercolors of Dong Kingman.
Biography courtesy of California Watercolors 1850-1970,
©2002 Hillcrest Press, Inc.
|** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.|