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DONG KINGMAN (1911-2000) "The Nightingale." Illustrations for pages 4-5 and 6-7 of Kingman's interpretation of the same-titled story by Hans Christian Andersen (Mamaroneck, N.Y.: Once-Upon-A-Time Press, 1948). Includes two finished boards and process sheets. Watercolor and ink. Approximately 300x410 mm; 12x16 inches. Illustration for 4-5 in black wash as published. Illustration for 6-7 in color version (as published) and in black wash. In addition, there are 3 black wash acetate overlays for that spread indicating color separations used for final published image. Finally, there is an unused illustration with text mock-up on paper. A copy of the published book accompanies the artwork.
The order of the illustrations for pages 6-7 differs from the final published layout.
The Nightingale was referenced as "the only good comic book in existence" in Frederic Wertham's 1954 book Seduction of the Innocent, which denounced the comic book medium for its detrimental effect on children and eventually led to the establishment of the Comics Code Authority (CCA). Wertham calls attention to The Nightingale's high-quality printing and paper and its beautiful colors, though he states that it cannot be considered a normal comic book because the dialogue is not delivered in balloons and it does "not confirm to the comic-book formula according to which a story is so abundantly illustrated that the action can be followed almost without reading any of the words" (pages 312-313). The Nightingale was the first of an intended, but ultimately unrealized, series by the publisher meant to elevate and redefine the comic book medium.
A master of watercolors, Kingman was a Chinese-American artist known for his picturesque landscapes and urban scenes and for pioneering the "California Style" school of painting. Kingman worked for the WPA from 1936 to 1941 and held numerous successful one-man gallery shows and well-received museum retrospectives. Throughout his career, Kingman was commissioned to illustrate the covers of leading magazines, including Time, Life, and Fortune, and painted numerous murals for companies like the Bank of California, the Ambassador Hotel in Hong Kong, and the Lingman Restaurant in New York City, which has been restored and is now housed in the Brooklyn Public Library. Additionally, Kingman designed posters for American Airlines and the Olympics. He also dabbled in Hollywood in the 1950s and 60s by serving as a technical advisor for numerous films and designing the title backgrounds for the films 55 Days in Peking and Flower Drum Song. In 1981, he was invited to exhibit his work by the Ministry of Culture of the Peoples Republic of China, the first American artist to hold a retrospective since the countries resumed diplomatic relations.
Kingman taught at various institutions, including Columbia University, Hunter College, the Famous Artists School, and the Academy of Art College in San Francisco. Over his 70-year career as an artist, he won numerous awards and accolades including two Guggenheim fellowships in 1942 and 1943, and the American Watercolor Society's Dolphin Medal in 1987, the organization's highest honor. His work is held in the permanent collections of leading institutions, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Whitney Museum, Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. (Reference: DongKingman.org)