Born Dong Moy Shu in Oakland, California in 1911, his family returned to Hong Kong when Dong was five years old. A teacher named the youngster King (scenery) Man (composition) in recognition that Dong wanted to be an artist. So, he combined his family name Dong with the name his teacher had given him to become Dong Kingman.
The young artist excelled at calligraphy and watercolor painting while attending school in the Orient. Upon Kingman's return to Oakland, he attended the Fox Morgan Art School, concentrating uniquely on watercolors.
Later he became known as a pioneer of the California Style School of painting. 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 1941 he earned the first of two Guggenheim Fellowships, allowing him to travel as well as make art. After the war he taught art at Columbia University and at Hunter College.
In 1981 Kingman's painting were exhibited in Beijing, where more than 100,000 people observed his work. This exhibition was the first American solo exhibition since the resumption of diplomatic relations between U.S. and China. In the 1990'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. The American Watercolor Society bestowed their highest honor on Mr. Kingman, the Dolphin Award, for outstanding contributions to art.