The Painter’s Hidden Masterpiece

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After his service, Koelz began to create the masterpiece of his life, a monumental triptych entitled Thou Shalt Not Kill – a stark testament to the horrors of war that Koelz had experienced. This giant piece, crafted in oils on blockboard, was painted in secret between 1930-1937, placing the artist at great risk. Koelz’s anti-war sentiments would place him further onto the wrong side of the ascendant Nazi regime. In 1937, facing imminent arrest, the artist and his family were forced to flee for their lives…

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The Soldier’s Hidden Masterpiece

by Simon Lake

Born on 31st March 1895 in the village of Mühldorf in Upper Bavaria, Germany, Johannes Matthaeus Koelz showed signs of being a keen artist from an early age. However, his attendance at the Munich Academy was delayed by the outbreak of WWI. Koelz served with distinction, and was decorated with the Iron Cross Second Class for rescuing a wounded soldier from behind enemy lines.

After his service, Koelz began to create the masterpiece of his life, a monumental triptych entitled Thou Shalt Not Kill – a stark testament to the horrors of war that Koelz had experienced. This giant piece, crafted in oils on blockboard, was painted in secret between 1930-1937, placing the artist at great risk. Koelz’s anti-war sentiments would place him further onto the wrong side of the ascendant Nazi regime. In 1937, facing imminent arrest, the artist and his family were forced to flee for their lives…

Eighty years after Koelz was exiled from his homeland, German art expert Simon Lake and Koelz’s own daughter, Ava Farrington, have compiled the most comprehensive record to date of the master artist’s life and work. Discover this incredible story of one man’s life, reflecting the turbulent history of war-torn twentieth century Europe.

The Painter’s Hidden Masterpiece by Simon Lake

ISBN 978-1-8380370-0-0

Art history/Biography

176pp

Weight 1.5 kg

1 review for The Painter’s Hidden Masterpiece

  1. George Sfougaras (verified owner)

    I have always believed that ‘actions speak louder than words’ and this is perfectly illustrated in Simon Lake’s moving book ‘The Painter’s Hidden Masterpiece’. In this big, comprehensive labour of love- of a book, Simon takes us close enough to Johannes Matthaeus Koelz, to hear his anxious breath as he put the finishing touches to his now-famous ‘Thou Shall Not Kill’ triptych.

    Destined to be cut up and secretly smuggled out of Germany, six fragments of this powerful painting now survive (four in Leicester, two in Germany). The Leicester pieces are currently mounted together within the perfect setting for works that escaped Nazi dogma and destruction: the beautifully evocative German Expressionist Art Gallery in Leicester Museum. Most poignant of the four, is the tiny rectangular piece that had ‘sat on Inge Vogel’s mantelpiece for many years. They were the hands of her brother Fred. As Ava, [Koelz’s devoted daughter] stood holding the tiny panel, Inge simply said ‘take it’.

    I was very moved by Simon’s book, because it brought together his authoritative knowledge of the visual arts and history, with his ability to observe with empathy the delicate texture of human behaviour and motivation. Carefully and reverently reconstructed by the writer, the time period and the journey of the artist and his family within a war-ravaged landscape is a forensic investigation coupled with the emotional devotion of a truly sensitive art commentator and writer. In the mix, a lost masterpiece defied and outlived the Nazi regime, proving once more the way that Art transcends human understanding to speak directly to our hearts. It is a true contradiction, a work torn apart, yet, spiritually intact.

    Thank you, Simon, for this beautiful book, and congratulations for bringing this lost masterpiece back to life; its few remaining fragments powerful symbols of the futility of war and the capacity of the artist’s hand to create meaning that transcends hate as well as time and place.

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