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Dong Kingman Part 2

February 3, 2020

Welcome back to part 2 of my post about the artist Dong Kingman. Check out Part one from last week and we’ll start today with some coastal views (probably from the 1940’s)

Such great perspectives and rolling land and seascapes, coaxing the viewer’s eye to travel to the very edges of the canvas.

1954 was a year of dramatic changes. Hollywood director James Wong Howe‘s film short “Dong Kingman” was released, Dong’s wife Janice died, and U.S. Department of State International Cultural Exchange wanted him to tour the world as a cultural ambassador.

He put himself into this work whole-heartedly and returned to the USA to publish the 40 foot scroll chronicling his visits to the worlds cities in the pages of LIFE magazine in February 1955. In 1956 Dong married journalist Helena Kuo, and the following year he began his lifelong association with Hewitt painting workshops, traveling to exotic locations once or twice a year teaching watercolour workshops.

You can see how much lighter his work has become.

By the time his first book The Water Colors of Dong Kingman, and How the Artist Works was published in 1958, Dong Kingman was a household-name. That year Kingman moved from Midtown to Wildenstein (1958-69) where he broadened his international reputation with successful exhibits in New York, London and Paris.

Dong had met many people in the entertainment industry through the years and some of his friends were now employed in the art departments of film crews. He added his touches to films such as The World of Suzie Wong (1960), Flower Drum Song (1961), 55 Days in Peking (1963), and Sand Pebbles (1966). His friend Emil Kosa, Jr. was also on the art team of Sand Pebbles, providing the matte paintings for “special visual effects”.

A few early sketches.

The 1960s were a whirlwind of painting and traveling worldwide. Dong’s unique multi-cultural persona, pegged early on as merging Eastern and Western styles made him a valuable asset to the USA in world relations. His influence on the popular culture of America through use of images of his paintings in movies, magazine covers, posters, and illustrations furthered the warming of relations between China and America that culminated in President Nixon’s historic 1972 China visit. A decade later in 1981, Kingman was the first American artist to be accorded a one man show in China since diplomatic relations between the two countries resumed. More than 100,000 visitors attended and the retrospective received critical acclaim from the Chinese media.

Through the rest of his career Dong continued traveling and painting the cities of the world. His high-visibility assignments through the years included creating posters for the Olympics and Pan Am, and numerous cover assignments for magazines like Time, Fortune, Life, and Saturday Review. He was invited to be a judge in the Miss Universe contest in 1969 and was proud to serve 20 years, sharing the stage with stars and celebrities of the day.

When Dong Kingman went on tour for the State Department in 1954 he realized cities were his favorite subjects and he spent the rest of his life capturing the lively essence of the world’s great cities. In 1997 “Portraits of Cities” was released chronicling the vitality and beauty of the world’s major hubs of civilization as seen through the eyes of one of America’s own watercolour masters.

If you look at Dong’s work year by year you can see his skills and style sharpen and shift. The muted grays and umbers and realism of his early watercolors gradually gravitated to brighter colours with scenes populated with characters and symbols drawn from Dong’s personal iconology and sense of humor. His late period paintings are brighter still with masterful abstractions in design using the white of the paper to expert advantage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dong Kingman passed away from pancreatic cancer in the year 2000 at the age of 89. His paintings hang in over 60 Museums and public institutions world-wide.

During his lifetime he won “virtually every major award for this medium” including the American Watercolor Society‘s prestigious Dolphin Medal and National Academy’s 150th Anniversary Gold Medal of Honor. His family keeps his legacy and good works alive through archival and arts outreach at Dongkingman.org.

Many thanks to Watercolor Painting dot com for their information on Dong which has helped make this post possible. Which of his paintings caught your eye today ?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Susan McCollum permalink
    February 3, 2020 5:36 pm

    Thank you for writing about Dong Kingman. His later paintings have a lighthearted feel that are very enjoyable yet are masterfully designed. There is a lot to learn from his work.

    • February 3, 2020 6:23 pm

      That’s very true Susan. Glad you’ve enjoyed the posts.

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