Matthaeus Koelz: The Soldier's Hidden Masterpiece

by Simon Lake in Leicester, England, United Kingdom

We did it
On 29th December 2019 we successfully raised £245 with 10 supporters in 28 days

I am publishing a book to record the fascinating story of Matthaeus Koelz and how his secret masterpiece changed the course of his life.

by Simon Lake in Leicester, England, United Kingdom

This is a true story. The story of a life divided; of disruption, dislocation, struggle and disappointment, but of hope and achievement, too. One painter’s life - Matthaeus Koelz. His life and work have remained largely unknown for eight decades.

In July 1998 a remarkable donation was offered to the New Walk Museum in Leicester. Four fragments of a very large painting, executed in oils on blockboard. Three of the pieces had people as their subject; the fourth showed a child's praying hands.

All of the fragments were edged with jagged saw cuts. In order to be saved from total destruction at the hands of the Nazis, the masterpiece Thou Shalt Not Kill (Du Söllst Nicht Toten) had been deliberately cut into sections. Some pieces had been hidden, and others smuggled to safety across Europe.

Apart from some scarring and minor paint losses they were in surprisingly good condition, and preliminary surface cleaning revealed that under the accumulated grime of over sixty years the paint layers were stable and the pigments had retained their original brilliance.

Koelz's story is an incredible one. A soldier in the Great War, devoted husband and father, celebrated artist and political refugee.

Thanks to the determined efforts of Koelz's daughter Ava Farrington in assembling a unique documentary archive and tracing surviving examples of her father's work, his extraordinary story can now be told. Simon Lake has used firsthand accounts, primary source material and his own new art historical research to create this book.

It will tell of Koelz's amazing life story. His refusal to accept a generous commission to paint Hitler. How his creation of Thou Shalt Not Kill set in motion a series of events that saw him flee his homeland, ultimately to be transported to Australia on the fated ship Dunera. The book also analyses Koelz's work and sets the artist's career and the desperate search for his lost works for the first time.

The money raised by this campaign will help Simon Lake to publish this book. Costs include research costs, obtaining proper licensing for the images, design and layout, printing and distribution costs and finally the costs associated with properly promoting the book to ensure that this great Master of early 20th century art is finally granted the recognition he deserves.


This project offers rewards in return for your donation.

£23 or more

Pre-order your copy of the book (UK supporters)

Enjoy a copy of the book (RRP £16.99), including Crowdfunder fees and UK postage.

£18 or more

Pre-order your copy of the book - collect Leics

Pre-order your copy of the book (RRP£16.99) + Crowdfunder fee. Book will be available after publication for collection by the supporter from Simon Lake in Leicester by arrangement.

£28 or more

Pre-order your copy of the book (International)

Enjoy a copy of the book (RRP £16.99), including Crowdfunder fees and international postage.

£100 or more

Signed copy of the book

Copy of the book signed and personalised to order by author Simon Lake. Reward can be sent internationally.

£500 or more

Major Sponsor

Acknowledgement by name as a major sponsor in the text of the book. Three signed copies of the book to be delivered to any single address.

£1,000 or more

Headline Sponsor

Acknowledgement by name of your contribution on the back cover and within the text of the book. Six signed copies of the book to be delivered to any single address.

£2,500 or more

A private talk from the author

Enjoy a private lecture from author Simon Lake on Johannes Matthaeus Koelz. Simon will travel to any mainland UK destination to deliver this talk on a mutually convenient date. Supporter to provide venue.

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