Dong Kingman: An American Master in Brooklyn

December 3, 2001 - January 31, 2002
Central Library, Lobby Gallery
About the Artist

Dong Kingman Dong 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."

Kingman 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.

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.

In 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.

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.

From 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.

In addition to the many honors and awards, and corporate and private commissions, Kingman's paintings enrich the collections of over 50 major public American museums and institutions. They include: Art Institute of Chicago, The Brooklyn Museum of Art, The Frye Art Museum, M.H. de Young Memorial Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Museum of Modern Art, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

Notes on the Exhibition

Dong Kingman, whose watercolor paintings enrich the collections of over 50 museums and institutions in the United States, has long been recognized as one of America's premier watercolor masters. Recipient of virtually every award in this medium, the artist is being honored with a major touring exhibition, "Dong Kingman: An American Master." The retrospective, presented by the Institute of Chinese Culture & Arts, spans seven decades of Kingman's artistic career.

"Dong Kingman: An American Master" is organized by The Institute of Chinese Culture & Arts, NY.  Major funding for this exhibition is provided by The Starr Foundation. Curator Monte James