Luke Ch’en (Chen Yuandu), Chinese, 1902–1967, Christ in the Harvest Field, 1932, ink and color on silk, 21 1/4 x 13 1/8 in., Saint Vincent Archabbey Collection, Gift of Hugh Wilt, O.S.B.
Luke Ch’en pioneered the practice of depicting Christian narratives using traditional Chinese motifs and techniques. The first apostolic nuncio to China, Archbishop Celso Costantini, encountered the painter Chen Yuandu in 1920 at an exhibition of modern Chinese art in Beijing. Having shown Ch’en Western images of Christ and the saints, Archbishop Constantini asked for the artist to interpret them using his own style. Ch’en understood this as a chance to widen European perspectives of Chinese painting by using stories with which they were familiar.
By 1925, Saint Vincent Archabbey had established the Catholic University of Peking, later known as Fu Jen Catholic University, at the request of Pope Pius XI. Ch’en was a faculty member at the University, teaching art courses that trained students in his innovative form of Chinese Christian painting. Ch’en converted to Catholicism in 1932, taking the name of Luke. Under his direction, a new generation of artists continued to blend Chinese sensibilities with Gospel subjects resulting in exhibitions that later toured to Budapest, Vienna, and the Vatican.
Luke Ch'en (Chen Yuandu), Christ Calling the Fishermen, ca. 1932, ink and color on silk, 21 1/4 x 13 1/8 in., Saint Vincent Archabbey Collection, Gift of Hugh Wilt, O.S.B.