Alois Lecoque was born in Prague in 1891 as Alois Kahout. His
father, an engineer specializing in the regulation of rivers and
hydraulic stations, wanted him to follow in his footsteps but Alois
wanted to be an artist and his father wisely assented. After six
years of formal study at Prague's Real Schule, he went to Zagreb to
study at the Art Institute under Professor Crncic. There he
mastered the technique of capturing scenic objects in effervescent
color. Alois Kahout was such an outstanding student who applied
himself assiduously that he left the institute with high honors.
So pleased was his father that he agreed to allow his son the dream for
opportunity to go to Paris where the art world was in such an excited
In Paris he attended the Academie Julian
studying under professors Baschet, Emile Bernard and others who were
highly respected by the Post Impressionist school of painting.
Kahout now became Lecoque - the French name for Rooster, which had the
same meaning in the Czech language. Renoir, the great master took
a liking to the young artist and taught him many of his secrets;
predicting that his drive and originality would one day make him
famous. Establishing his own studio in "La Ruche des Artistes"
located in the famed Vauguirard quarter, he met and became friends with
many artists whose works have since achieved world acclaim, including
the sculptor Zadkine, Miossi Kogan, Modigliani, Soutine and many
others. In 1913, his works were exhibited at the Anglo German
Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in London.
Lecoque returned to Prague where he was highly honored by winning the
first prize of Frs.3,000 in gold by Architect Turek. The press raved
with acclaim and Lecoque basked in the glory of local celebrity.
His paintings were in great demand and as befits a successful painter
he moved into an entire floor of the Coloredo Mansfeld Palace.
Here he played well the role of social lion and entertained lavishly
like a Seigneur. Important personages found it fashionable to be
linked with his name.
But World War I exploded and so did Lecoque's high style of
living. He spent the war years in Prague because of a medical
exemption, and the Austrian government realized that it was better to
keep such a famous painter home than to send him to the front.
Meanwhile Lecoque endured an unhappy marriage and left Prague in 1920
to journey to Algiers at the invitation of his friend Dinet in Bou -
Sada, deep in the heart of the Sahara desert. He remained for two
years in different places of North Africa and then his restless soul
compeled him to return to Paris, which he loved and missed intensely.
There - at the Rue Jacob - Lecoque concentrated on scenes of the Siene
River, the Cathedral of Notre Dame and the interesting bridges.
worked feverishly, and in two years he had enough paintings for an
exhibit at the Andree Galarie where his works were avidly snapped up by
collectors. Restless again, he went to the coast of Brittany,
Brignogan, where he painted with such fury that he was able to go back
to Paris with enough works for a second showing that brought such
favorable reviews from the critics and such financial rewards that his
friends urged him to remain in Paris and reap his due there.
However, Emile Bernard longed for his company and beckoned him to
Venice. On the Canal Rio del Piombo he occupied a studio in one of the
palaces and here he settled down to serious work. Evenings were
spent in the company of Emile Bernard, the Russian painter Resrodni and
the Italian poet, Luigi Gentina. They debated politics, art,
women, and not necessarily in that order. One of his crowning
achievements was capturing vividly a few gondolas lazily moving over
the surface of the Canale Grande, while white snow fell over the
Bysantine-like rooftops. This and other paintings were accepted
for the exhibit in the Biennale of Venice in 1926 and again in
1928. But as much as he enjoyed Venice, Lecoque had to depart
hastily, due to his innocent involvement in a plot to assassinate
Back to Prague he went in 1925 where he
settled down to enjoy 13 of the most exciting years of his life.
Here in his beloved home city, Lecoque's popularity rose
immensely. Overnight his paintings increased in value and many of
his works were purchased by the government. Meanwhile he
exhibited in Prague, Ostrava and Bratislava and often traveled to Paris
to meet his friends, George Kars, Kupka, Utrillo and others. He
also took time to remarry and find happiness for a while with his
The clouds of War descended again on Europe
and because of his bold and controversial political philosophies
Lecoque again was forced to flee. Hunted like an animal by the
Nazis, he escaped to free Yugoslavia, where he boarded his yacht,
"Angela," sailing from one picturesque harbor to another down the
Dalmatian coast and the Greek islands. Then both Yugoslavia and
Greece were occupied by the Nazis and fascist armies, Lecoque saved his
life in Dubrovnik, in the Italian zone. However after the
capitulation of the Italian army in Dalmatia, Lecoque was captured by
the Germans and sent to Sarajevo where he spent many months in
prison. After a trial the military confined him to
Dubrovnik. But, before the end of the war he was again arrested
by the Gestapo and together with 43 partisans, imprisoned. One
morning, when the Gestapo came to execute Lecoque and his friend
Spitzer the director of Police, a Croate who liked Lecoque's paintings
very much, surrendered only Spitzer to the Germans.
That same morning, one of the Partisan women came to bring Lecoque
food. Under her shawl she was hiding a machine gun and a large
rusted can with some cooked vegetables for him. When Lecoque went
to the cell with all the forty three Partisans he noticed that inside
the can were three hand grenades. As he did not know how to
handle the grenades he learned that his companions had also received
various weapons and in this way he was able to exchange the grenades
for a Mauser pistol. Then Lecoque called for help and the guard
came. When he opened the door Lecoque forced him inside, pressing
his gun to the guard's chest, he ordered him to call the other
guard. Lecoque promised him he would live providing he followed
Lecoque's orders explicitly. They immediately handed over their
guns as well as the entire prison arsenal, which Lecoque distributed
amongst his fellow partisans. Then, well armed, they all escaped
to a medieval tower where they waited until all the Germans had left
Dubrovnik, was already occupied by partisans, and they were more
than happy to see Lecoque and his fellows alive. They had feared
for their lives. Thus with Guile, audacity, genius and multi-language
as his arsenal, Lecoque managed to keep his neck intact while his
poetic elegance expressed itself in the innumerable canvasses he
managed to paint. Finally in the Fall of 1944, the Partisan's
whom he had aided in their battled against the Germans, spirited him
aboard a Naval vessel in the harbor of Split. It took him to the
harbor of Bari in Southern Italy, now in the hands of the Allies.
From there an American truck convoy took him to Rome where he was
joyously received by the Czechoslovakian Legation.
1945 to 1951 Lecoque's colorful career as an artist gained new luster
and his personal life was enriched by new challenges and
opportunities. Rome, Milan, Florence, and Capri now became
sources of inspiration for his prolific paint brush and his unique
canvases of scenes in those famous cities won him acclaim in numerous
exhibits. His keen and perceptive eye, said one critic, "had
revealed the splendor of the Italian cities to the Italians." Two
of his books were published there but another art form beckoned his
His commanding presence and flair for dramatic expression caught the
eye of the famed movie director, Carmen Galloni, and he won a role in
the motion picture Avanti a lui tremava tuta Roma. His
role was that of General Melzer, in charge of the Nazi occupation of
Rome. Ironic indeed for the man who strenuously fought the Nazis.
The great Italian actress, Anna Magnani, who starred in the film,
profusely commended his performance and they became good friends.
The picture was highly successful at the box office and brought Lecoque
new friends and funds that enabled him to live in a spacious villa on
the enchanting Isles of Capri. He settled down there for a while
to paint and host elaborate parties.
With a studio in Rome, a
villa in Capri, once again Lecoque played well his favorite role - that
of the Grand Seigneur. Now he could move to the intellectual
circles to which he was quite at ease with. Among his friends
were Enrico Prampolini, Giorgio de Chirico, Mario Mafai, Josef Jarema,
Guttuso Renato and Monachesi Sante. In 1945 he exhibited at the
Galleria San Marco in Rome and in 1946 at the Galleria Salvetti in
Milano. In 1948 new honors cascaded upon him for his stunning
exhibit at the Al Blu de Prussia in Naples and at the Studio de Guillio
Parisio. His last exhibit in Italy was held at the elegant
Galleria Nazionale de Arte Moderna in Rome, which drew capacity crowds.
The sunny skies of Italy, the warmth and animation of the Italians in
all walks of life and the sumptuous living made Lecoque's existence
there quite endurable - for a while.
But the Gods of Adversity had other plans for Lecoque. A hard
core of Fascist carry-overs attained some influence in the shaky
Italian Government, and Lecoque's alleged part in the attempted
assassination plot against Mussolini was not forgotten. A move
was made to deport him, and he was sent to the Campo de Capua, a
displaced persons camp. He could not go back to Prague which was
clamped under the despotic rule of the hated Communists, who were
anathema to everything he believed in and fought for. All of the
property that he had in Prague was lost. Because of his age,
which made immigration impossible to every country he attempted to
enter, even his beloved France, he became a man without a country.
many heartbreaking and humiliating experiences in Switzerland, Sweden,
and France, he was finally granted permission to enter the United
States. But more heartbreak awaited him in America. When he
arrived in Chicago during a cruel harsh winter, at age 60, with five
dollars in his pocket, he found that the job his sponsor had promised
him was just a promise. The promise of full freedom was now
ironically fraught with the promise of starvation and despair.
But Lecoque's indomitable spirit again prevailed. Soon, with the
help of the Czech community and especially Roderick A. Gorman, who
became his friend and biographer, Lecoque began painting and exhibiting
Subsequently, he went to California, and after several successful
years in Laguna Beach, he settled in Los Angeles where he maintained an
art gallery and frequently sponsored exhibits for other artists
striving for recognition. In 1960 he gained one of the greatest
treasures of his life - his American citizenship and thus his freedom
to roam the world and exhibit his work in the countries of his
Paris - which once refused him - welcomed him with open arms when he
returned to exhibit in 1961 at the Gallerie Benezit and in 1962 at the
Galerie Mercel Bernheim. Again in 1963 he exhibited at the Palais
Royal Galerie in Paris and sold one of his paintings to Sir James
Farmer Norton, who invited him to visit England. During his visit with
Sir James he finished a large painting of Venice and several family
portraits of Sir James.
From 1963 to 1970, a veritable avalanche of honors and accolades
from prominent public figures including President Eisenhower, were
heaped upon his still sturdy shoulders. Perhaps Jeanne Good's
summation of his career might capture the richness of the man and his
work with this excerpt of her critique/Analysis of Lecoque:
"Lecoque's creative inspiration has been enriched by his
international life. His paintings are not without affection and
resemble those of no other artist. The versatility of this
prolific painter is beyond belief until you have been rewarded by
viewing his works which are all over the world in public and private
collections, as well as in the different places where he has painted. .
." Lecoque - Master Painter - Humanist - Freedom Fighter - Historian -
Bon Vivant - and incurable romanticist and optimist. His
greatness as an artist is no more outstanding then his respect for the
dignity and freedom of the individual. It can truly be said of
him that his work enhances mankind and his own personal life inspires
us with the indominability of the human spirit!
Written and submitted by Ben E. Kozlovsky Sr.