Dong Kingman

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Dong Kingman was a watercolorist born in Oakland, California on April 1, 1911. When Kingman was five, his family moved to Hong Kong where he grew up and attended Lingnan Grammar School. The painting master of the school, Szetu Wei, had studied in Paris and recognized Kingman's budding artistic talent. For several years he trained the youth in Chinese classical and French Impressionist painting styles.

In 1929, Kingman returned to Oakland at the age of eighteen. During the height of the Great Depression, he worked as a newsboy and dishwasher to make ends meet. Kingman painted in every spare moment, seeking inspiration from the scenes of the city. He became active in the local art scene. His first solo show was at the San Francisco Art Center in 1936, where his watercolors became an overnight success.

From 1936-1941, Dong Kingman was employed as a project artist by the Works Progress Administration. During his time with the WPA, he became a pioneer for the California style of painting.

After 1941, Kingman was able to travel extensively, painting scenes from across America, as a result of two successive Guggenheim Scholarships. During World War II he created maps and charts for the Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor of the CIA.

In 1951, he was elected to the National Academy. As a nationally recognized artist, his watercolors have been reproduced in Life and on the covers of Fortune and Holiday magazines. 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 adviser. 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.

In 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. In 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.

Kingman died on May 12, 2000 at his Manhattan home.

Member: San Francisco Art Association; American Watercolor Society; California Watercolor Society.

Exhibited: San Francisco Museum of Art Inaugural, 1935; San Francisco Art Association, 1936 (first purchase prize); Golden Gate International Exposition, 1939; de Young Museum, 1945 (solo); Philadelphia Watercolor Club, 1950 (Pennel Medal); National Academy of Design, 1975 (Gold Medal).

Works held: Boston Museum; Delaware Museum; Whitney Museum, New York; Museum of Modern Art; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Brooklyn Museum; de Young Museum; Art Institute of Chicago; San Francisco Museum of Art; San Diego Museum; Mills College, Oakland; and others.

Correspondence with the artist; Who's Who in American Art 1940-70; California Art Research, vol. 20; "The Watercolors of Dong Kingman" by Alan Gruskin.

Hughes, Edan M. Artists In California 1786-1940. 3rd ed. Vol. 1. Sacramento: Crocker, Art Museum, 2002. N. pag. 2