Tyrus Wong

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Tyrus Wong
Born (1910-10-25) October 25, 1910 (age 103)
Xinning, Guangdong, China
Nationality Chinese American
Known for film, mural, painting
Notable work(s) Bambi
Awards CAM Historymakers Award

Tyrus Wong (traditional Chinese: 黃齊耀; simplified Chinese: 黄齐耀; pinyin: Huáng Qíyào; Cantonese Yale: Wong Chaiyiu; born October 25, 1910) is a Chinese-born American artist . He is a painter, muralist, ceramicist, lithographer, designer and kite maker. As film production illustrator in the film industry, Wong has worked for Disney and Warner Brothers. Wong's most famous work was for the Disney animated classic, Bambi.

Early life[edit]

Wong was born in Taishan, Guangdong, China. In 1920, when he was 9 years old, Wong and his father emigrated to the United States, and never again came into contact with Wong's mother and sister. Tyrus was held on Angel Island initially, due to the Chinese Exclusion Act. He was separated on the island from his father, the only child in sight. "Nine years old, I was scared half to death," he said.[1]

After his release from Angel Island, he and his father initially relocated to Sacramento, then his father decided to move to Los Angeles.

While attending Benjamin Franklin Junior High in Pasadena, Wong's teachers noticed his artistic ability and he received a summer scholarship at the Otis Art Institute. Wong decided to leave junior high for a full-time studentship at Otis. Wong's father survived on a more modest income, and Wong worked as a janitor at Otis. He walked for miles to attend classes. Wong graduated in 1930 and began working in Hollywood.[2][3]

Career[edit]

The dragon mural in L.A. Chinatown painted by Tyrus Wong[citation needed] and restored by Fu Ding Cheng (1984)

His career included working as a greeting card designer to Warner Bros. film production illustrator (1942–1968), from drawing set designs and storyboard for several movies to being a Disney inspirational sketch artist (1938–1941). It was his lush pastels that served as inspiration for Bambi (1942) where he was the lead artist of the project.

Wong left Disney studios shortly after finishing Bambi, due to repercussions from the Disney animators' strike. Later, he designed popular greeting cards for Hallmark,[4] some of his Christmas cards selling over 1 million copies.

Some of his well known paintings include Self Portrait (late 1920s), Fire (1939), Reclining Nude (1940s), East (1984) and West (1984). He told an interviewer that he's a "lucky artist."

Wong was featured in Mark Wexler's documentary How to Live Forever, where he discussed his daily lifestyle and his view on mortality.

Personal life[edit]

He was married to Ruth Ng Kim (伍梅珍), a second-generation Chinese American from a farming family in Bakersfield, California. He considers his three daughters, Kay (born 1938), Tai-ling (born 1941), and Kim (born 1946) as his "greatest achievements."[5] Wong lives in Sunland, California.

After retiring in 1968, Wong continued to create colorful kites (usually animals such as pandas, goldfish, or centipede). He spent his Saturdays flying his creations on the Santa Monica Pier.[6]

Later life[edit]

From October 17, 2004 to December 18, 2004, "Tyrus Wong: A Retrospective" was an exhibit available at the Chinese American Museum in Los Angeles, California showcasing his work. According to the museum, "This exhibit showcased the works of Tyrus Wong, who at the age of 93, is one of the earliest and most influential Chinese American artists in the United States. In his long, pioneering career as a local artist, Wong is a seasoned painter, muralist, ceramicist, lithographer, designer, and kite maker. The exhibit also featured Wong’s imaginative kites, which he has been building and flying for the past 30 years. Drawn from public and private collections, several of the pieces chosen for this exhibition have not been shown publicly since the 1930s."[7]

During 2001, Wong was given a Historymakers Award (arts) by the Chinese American Museum and was inducted in the Disney Legends.

In 2007, Wong was one of three illustrators featured in “The Art of the Motion Picture Illustrator: William B. Major, Harold Michelson and Tyrus Wong,” an exhibit in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences's Grand Lobby Gallery in Beverly Hills.

Wong's work was featured in the "'Round the Clock: Chinese American Artists Working in Los Angeles" exhibit at the East Los Angeles College Vincent Price Art Museum, January 21–May 25, 2012. Some of his kites were hung in the lobby.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The fleeting memories of Angel Island". Los Angeles Times. 9 February 2002. 
  2. ^ "Tyrus Wong (Animation)". Disney Legends. Retrieved May 12, 2010.
  3. ^ "Tyrus Wong - Otis College of Art and Design". Otis College of Art and Design. Retrieved May 12, 2010.
  4. ^ "Kite Man Preserves Father's Hobby". Los Angeles Times. 20 July 1989. 
  5. ^ "About Tyrus Wong". Cape Cod Films. Retrieved April 28, 2010.
  6. ^ Fly away art - Los Angeles Business Journal, Jan 28, 2002 by Claudia Peschiutta: The Roving Eye - kite-maker, Tyrus Wong
  7. ^ Past exhibits, Chinese American Museum

External website[edit]