Diana Kan, 84, renowned landscape painter, teacher
By Albert Amateau
Diana Kan, a painter who 50 years ago showed in the Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit and some of whose works are now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, died May 3 in her home in the Village at age 84.
Her health declined over the past two years, according to her nephew, Robert Y. Lee, a retired deputy commissioner of the Department of Finance.
Diana Kan was a member of the National Arts Club on Gramercy Park for more than 30 years where she had a studio and conducted workshops. She also belonged to Pen and Brush where she served on the board of directors.
“She could paint mountains like no one else because she was on such a high spiritual level,” said her friend, O. Aldon James, president of the National Arts Club.
“Her workshops were attended by loyal students from all over the world,” said Elizabeth Butson, her friend and former publisher of The Villager.
Born in Hong Kong in 1926 to a prominent family, Diana Kan learned the art of calligraphy and painting from her father, Kan Kam-shek, a distinguished calligrapher, and later became a pupil and disciple of Zhang Daqian, a renowned art master. She was 9 years old when she had her first solo exhibit at the National Academy of Fine Arts in Shanghai.
Diana Kan came to New York in 1949 where she attended the Art Students League and studied with Rooet Johnson, Robert B. Hale and Victor Perard. The following year she went to Paris to attend the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere where she studied with Paul Lavelle.
She married Paul Schwartz, a sales executive in New York in 1952. Their son, Sing-Si Schwartz, was born in 1954 in New York. He became a well-known photographer with a studio in the National Arts Club. Paul Schwartz died in 1988, and Sing-Si died in 2005.
In 1964 Diana Kan began writing art reviews for The Villager. Her paintings were shown in galleries in New York and London, and prominent collectors acquired her work, including Joan Whitney Payson, Sir Winston Churchill and Princess Margaret of England.
“I know that she had dinner with Winston and Clementine Churchill in No. 10 Downing St. on May 11, 1949,” said her nephew Lee. In 1991, Kan, Sing-Si and her foster daughter, Ingrid Arneberg, a painter, showed their work together at the Evansville Museum in Evansville, Ind.
She was a member of the Salmagundi Club and lectured at the National Academy of Design in New York and Birmingham Southern College in Alabama.
A memorial service will be held at the National Arts Club at a date to be announced.