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Dong Kingman Part 1

January 27, 2020

I first discovered the work of Dong Kingman work after spotting this San Francisco poster for American Airlines. Again because there is so much of Dong’s work to explore, I’ve split the post into two sections. A real travel feast for the eyes : )

Dong Kingman (1911-2000) was born in Oakland, CA of Chinese parents was originally named Dong Moy Shu. According to Chinese custom, Kingman was given his new name when he entered school. Hearing that he wanted to be an artist, his teacher gave him the name of King (scenery) and 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. He studied at the Ling Nan School in Hong Kong.

Dong returned to Oakland in his late teens in 1929. He attended the Fox Morgan Art School, held a variety of jobs and experimented with oils and watercolors. Soon he 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, Dong would emerge as one of America’s leading artists and a pioneer of the California Style School of painting.

I love his observational skills and layouts, as much as his use of colour and shade.

Here’s some of the work inpired by his China visits.

A 1936 solo exhibition at the San Francisco Art Association brought him instant success and national recognition. 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: “Dong 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 moment.”

Some of his early work here, really captures life on the streets of the forties and fifties.

In 1941 Dong earned the first of two, back to back, Guggenheim Fellowships which allowed him to travel and experiment with the watercolor medium. 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 Heights, New York, assuming teaching positions at Columbia University and Hunter College in 1946 for the next decade. His first one-man show in New York at Midtown Galleries in 1942 was well received in the media, including Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, 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, Dong Kingman is one of the world’s best watercolourists.”

A few paintings showing trains, railways and tram structures around the city.

I wonder how many other folk were painting structures like these in those times ?

Other retrospectives, including Corcoran in Washington, D.C. and Witte Memorial Museum in San Antonio, were held for the artist. In the late 50s, Dong moved from Midtown to Wildenstein where he had successful exhibitions for over a decade in New York, London and Paris.

A few of his London paintings here.

Many thanks to Watercolor Painting dot com for their information on Dong which has helped make this post possible. Look out for Part 2 next week.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Jonathan permalink
    January 27, 2020 5:19 pm

    Muy buenos trabajos! Buena investigación!

  2. Susan McCollum permalink
    January 28, 2020 1:39 pm

    Dong Kingman has been a favorite of mine for many years. Thank you for this excellent post! I am looking forward to your second post about him.

    • January 28, 2020 1:43 pm

      Thank you Susan, I’m relatively new to his work but I think it’s stunning. Hope you enjoy part two as much.

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