Tutor Renders Charcoal Portrait of College’s Patron


Dr. Christopher Decaen (’93)
Dr. Christopher Decaen (’93)

Light and shadow blend together in this beautiful charcoal portrait of the College’s patron, St. Thomas Aquinas — the handiwork of TAC tutor and alumnus Dr. Christopher Decaen (’93).

In high school, Dr. Decaen planned to go to art school for college, hoping one day to work as a concept artist at Lucasfilm. “I really wanted art to be my life when I was in high school,” he says. At his parents’ urging, 然而, he came to Thomas Aquinas College, expecting to transfer after one year — until his experience of Catholic liberal education changed his mind. “By the second year, I thought, ‘I don’t want to leave, I want to finish this.’”

After graduating from the College and earning a doctorate in philosophy at the Catholic University of America, he returned to his alma mater as a member of the teaching faculty in 1999. Yet over the years, he has continued to keep his love of art alive and well by continuing to draw and paint.

Last Christmas, while drawing a series of charcoal portraits based on a bust of an anonymous Roman citizen, Dr. Decan realized that the statue would be a good reference for a portrait of the Universal Doctor. He had wanted to draw St. Thomas for some time, hoping to capture both the saint’s great mind and his large frame. “I wanted to make a portrait that showed him as more contemplative,” he says, “while also capturing his magnitude.”

Dr. Decaen’s charcoal portrait succeeds on both fronts. The saint gazes up out of the canvas, caught in a moment of contemplation. His features are broad, reflecting medieval descriptions of his prodigious frame, and he displays a focused attention. The tutor’s image depicts a man with the strength of an ox — and the mind of an angel.