Dong Kingman (Jingwen Zeng), N.A. Biography

View Art by Dong Kingman (Jingwen Zeng)

Dong Kingman (Jingwen Zeng), 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.

During the 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 watercolor shows.

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.

Biographical information:

Interview with Dong Kingman, 1994.

The Watercolors of Dong Kingman.

Biography courtesy of California Watercolors 1850-1970,

©2002 Hillcrest Press, Inc.

California Watercolor


Dong Kingman's artwork is included in many American museums:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, NY
The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, IL
The Brooklyn Museum in New York, NY
The de Young Museum in San Francisco, CA
The Art Institute in Chicago, IL
The Hilbert Museum of California Art in Orange, CA
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, CA
The Columbus Museum of Arts and Crafts in Columbus, OH
The Des Moines Art Center in Des Moines, IA
The Munson-Williams Proctor Arts Institute in Utica, NY
The Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC
The Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, OH
The Fred Jones Jr Museum of Art, University of Oklahoma in Norman, OK
The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, NY
The Frye Art Museum in Seattle, WA
Museum of Modern Art in New York, NY
The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, PA
The San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park, CA
The Springfield Art Museum in Springfield, OH
The Toledo Museum of Art in Toledo, OH



Dong Kingman painting on location in early 1940's when he received two Guggenheim Fellowships.



Time Magazine Cover - 1960

Kingman in Central Park, 1959 

 Dong Kingman in Central Park, New York, 1959


Dong Kingman and the movies

1953 The World of Dong Kingman (short) Himself

1961 Flower Drum Song (original title paintings)

1963 55 Days at Peking (title paintings)

1964 Circus World (title designer)

1966 The Sand Pebbles (watercolor artist)

1970 The Yin and the Yang of Mr. Go (set designer) 


With son Dong Jr., 1942