Celebrating Printmaker Chen Lok Lee

By Laura S. RSS Wed, May 8, 2024

The Print and Picture Collection is proud to present a program highlighting the work of artist and Master Printer Chen Lok Lee on Wednesday, May 15 at 4:30 p.m.

Born in China in 1927, Lee studied at the Canton Public Art College and Hong Kong University before moving to the United States in 1959. For over 20 years, the Philadelphia-based Asian American artist and educator was a Professor of Printmaking, Silkscreen, and Lithography at Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia. Additionally, he taught Chinese calligraphy and painting classes through the Community College of Philadelphia and other private venues and classes.


Untitled lithograph by Chen Lok Lee circa 1992


"When I first came to America, I brought images in my head with me. I developed skills in a Western art form — printmaking." - Chen Lok Lee

His daughter, Romana Lee-Akiyama, is the founding director and curator of the Chen Lok Lee Legacy Project, a project created after Lee died in 2020 to share his work and keep his memory alive. Here at the Print and Picture Collection, we are constantly amazed at how one printmaker leads to another printmaker. While working her former day job as the Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office of Public Engagement in October 2023, Romana learned of the exhibition The Art and Influence of John Dowell at the Free Library of Philadelphia. She realized that her father and John Dowell had similar paths. Both studied at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art, both completed the Master Printer program at Tamarind, and both shared a common mentor in printmaker Romas Viesulas:

"My father also studied with Romas, and we also have some of his lithographs as part of our collection. He and my father were very close, and I have notes that they had shared with each other. Romas, being an immigrant himself, really seemed to understand the barriers that my father was facing as he tried to break into the print scene in Philadelphia in the 1970s and beyond. Unfortunately, it's still very difficult for Asian artists today."


Romana Lee-Akiyama with a donation of prints by her father Chen Lok Lee


Romana (named after the city of Rome, Italy where her parents met) reached out to us to offer a donation of her father’s work to the collection. This past December, Romana and her husband visited the Print and Picture Collection with a generous donation of ten lithographs by her father. You can read about their visit and donation on the Chen Lok Lee Legacy Project

Join us in the Print and Picture Collection on the Second Floor of Parkway Central Library on May 15, 2024, to celebrate Chen Lok Lee and this generous gift to the library. We will also show prints by his teachers Romas Viesulas and Richard Callner. Drop in anytime between 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Have a question for Free Library staff? Please submit it to our Ask a Librarian page and receive a response within two business days.

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