Aug 132010

Surprisingly it is necessary to learn to observe. Observation is a specialized activity and each of us has a mind that more easily absorbs either visual or auditory (language based) experience. I, for instance, could not tell you the names of streets that I pass every day because I find my way visually, the street names are irrelevant to me. If one is going to become a specialist in art it is important to start with the right “visual” mental make-up.

The present system of selecting art historians seems more concerned with their auditory ability: to learn languages, rather than to observe art. This selection process means students spend their time reading the literature rather than quizzing the works of art. Art History desperately needs practical revision; embroidering on the literature inevitably leads to the accumulation of myth.

The selection of students is a fundamental mistake that has led us into the present morass: the blind leading the “visual” astray. As George Orwell wisely noted “He who controls the present controls the past.” Rembrandt is being changed beyond recognition by those who control Art History today. It is very rare for an artist to get published in an Art History Journal; rarer still for an artist’s findings to be assimilated by the professionals, we are poles apart. It is only in the last 50 years that art historians have been allowed to dictate the direction of art; it has been a disaster.

This web site proves, beyond reasonable doubt, that Rembrandt worked by observation and not by his ability to invent. This is a fundamental aspect of his artistic make-up. In the case of “The Adoration of the Shepherds” we have two paintings, which replicate on a grand scale, what I have been saying about Rembrandt’s practice in drawings since 1974. It would need an astronomer’s mathematics to work out the odds of such a thing happening by any other means than the use of a mirror. I can only guess it must be many millions to one, against. The reversal of a new point of view of a very complex visual array, can be achieved naturally with an angled mirror. To do it by calculation, as the RRP suggests in this case, is virtually impossible. This being so, it is clearly absurd to go on training young minds to see Rembrandt according to the ideas of the Rembrandt establishment, which deny Rembrandt’s reliance on observation and indeed would have us believe that he taught his students to invent! This is a reversal of all documentary evidence as well as the evidence manifest in his works. It must not be allowed to continue.

There are a simple explanations for Rembrandt’s variability. I have tried to make Rembrandt scholars see this since 1977 through publications, lectures and this web site. Yet, I have not succeeded in attracting a single art historian to my courses; they are hermetically sealed from criticism. Artists accept my version of Rembrandt but alas, are too preoccupied with their own work to take the necessary action.

The main lines along which to come to an understanding of Rembrandt are set out here link but I know that they will not suffice on their own. A minimum of three months practical work is necessary to re-educate, even a “visual”mind. It is frustrating to think the breakthrough I have made in understanding is to be lost if I can find no one interested in continuing the battle to return Rembrandt to his rightful, supremely respected place in the history of painting and drawing. Our visual culture is in a state of collapse. At the age of 77 it is obvious that I will not be able to instruct the young for the indefinite future.

The insights gained from such a course will prove useful beyond Rembrandt studies. An appreciation of Rembrandt is a study of the greatest, most advanced artist in the field of human behaviour. Have our present “experts” contributed one iota to that study? They continue with their study of style which was rendered obsolete when it was discovered that Rembrandt responded variously to the varying stimuli: life, reflection and in the case of imaginative construction, the lack of stimulus. The variety had little or nothing to do with his maturity, everything to do with the quality of the stimulus. For instance, the style of his late etched nudes is remarkably similar to his early etched nudes. Any attempt to assign dates to Rembrandt’s drawings by style is empty posturing; the recent re-attributions are outrageous nonsense. Rembrandt studies at present are worse than a waste of time: they are deeply misleading and have damaged his reputation unjustly.


The words Art History have a rather conservative ring to them, which is deceptive. The contrary is true. Art historians have fostered a culture of “the new” quite regardless of whether the new ideas produce greater awareness or less. The sad truth is that we have in the last 50 years regressed very considerably in awareness. The story of recent Rembrandt scholarship where literally hundreds if not thousands of academics have clung to a doctrine that the facts and the documents deny, is proof enough that our visual culture is in steep decline.

Art historians concerns are not the concerns of trained artists. They cling to a very narrow view of style which makes no real sense in quality evaluation. I was trained in art schools before 1960. The criticism of drawing took the form of assessing the mass; the form, usually of nude human beings, how they were perceived in light and how they resisted gravity. The style of handwriting was not considered worthy of comment. One hundred years earlier the criticism would probably also have included questions about what the pose actually meant in terms of drama, character or feeling.

Such humanist questions were estewed in the 1950s as too literary, not architectural enough for “real art”. We were under the influence of Roger Fry , with his “pure form” as being the only proper concern of the true artist. Rembrandt, if he could have understood this concept at all, would hardly have concurred. The fact is that modern criticism can no longer deal with Rembrandt’s primary concerns as an artist. The more rigorously modern the critic the less chance there is of awareness of human expression. Our focus has narrowed alarmingly; a changed for the worse, that is clearly reflected in our everyday life. We need to put Rembrandt back where he belongs – at the top; for our own well-being.

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