Sep 232010

The museum is devoted to the history of the making of art.   The museum’s collection has accumulated over the last forty years as a result of stumbling on the unexpected .  When  I see something inconsistent with my experience – I seek to explain the inconsistency.  This has led to a sequence of art discoveries which could bring about a new  understanding of art.

Artists understandably keep secrets about their methods to maintain an advantage over rivals within their profession.  Centuries later their secrets often remain hidden. This may happen because of our desire for super-heroes – we want to believe in the magical.  This museum is about delving into the truth about  how things were made, based on the artefacts themselves, questioning the art mythology.

We have concrete evidence that the Classical Greek sculptors did not follow the “proper” art school procedure of observing from a life-model but used a hollow wax cast taken from life. This came as a great shock. It has upset our sense of where we come from. It requires the revision of Art History. By following the clues present in all the life-size bronzes that survive from the Severe and Classical periods we are led to a very different conception to the one we have accepted for the last 2500 years.

Long ago Pliny reported that life-casting was invented by Lysistratus around 350BC but few historians have acknowledged this possibility. In fact my discovery pushes that date back to around 500BC; the moment when the great Greek revolution changed the course of history with the discovery of natural movement: the famous Greek contraposto. We must now see this leap forward, more as a technical advance, rather than a leap of the imagination. Up to that time the Greeks had followed the Egyptian pattern but less successfully than the Egyptians. Their revolution all happened too quickly, in less than 50 years. Nonetheless my concrete evidence, like Pliny’s report, is neglected.
My most important discovery is Rembrandt’s  need to have life in front of him when drawing or painting.  In the museum we will see that Rembrandt was a different and inferior artist if he didn’t work from life.  Rembrandt’s genius is based on his observation of human interaction: body language, which he conveys through his precise observation of space relationships, usually set up in his studio with live models and theatrical properties.

The importance of his use of mirrors is that it shows us definitively how Rembrandt worked .  The experts’ ideas about the development of his style are wrong.  The relationship between Rembrandt and his students  are also gravely misleading.

Though he could not work out of his head, Rembrandt’s imagination was more serious than is commonly meant by the term. Coleridge, a poet who thought very deeply about imagination, distinguished between “fancy”(fantasy) and true imagination. The brain receives the world through the senses  but we all need imagination to make sense of these perceptions. Rembrandt made new and better sense of what he saw, psychologically, using his genuine interpretive imagination. If our experts could take Rembrandt’s and Coleridge’s lessons to heart the future course of art and criticism would be of much greater value to us.

Rembrandt is clearly the most evolved artist that has ever existed. Yet we have witnessed a steep decline in his perceived stature because the art historians refuse to revise their time honoured misunderstandings. They rely too unquestioningly on the literature of art, (including the artists’ own self-promotions) and seem unable to interpret the primary evidence, the artefacts.

The subjects covered in the museum are in chronological order :-
1. The discovery that the Greeks used life-casting for their life-size figures from the time of Phidias onwards.
2. a chimney on the Acropolis in Athens, and another in Olympia.
3. a method of steaming moulds to recover 70% of the wax usually lost, used at Rhodes and almost certainly elsewhere.
Roman geometry had an enormous influence on subsequent art that is seldom acknowledged. The analysis of a portrait bust of Hadrian in the British Museum, demonstrates this geometry. Those artists who have used it since are also represented.(Mantegna, Holbein, Rembrandt, Degas, Giacometti)
1. An appreciation of the works of Rinaldo da Siena recently discovered under the cathedral.
2. Reasons why the so called “Duccio Window” cannot be by Duccio.
3. The discovery of the dimension of time in Simone Martini’s Madonna of the Annunciation.

1. The probable use of a polished silver mirror in Brunelleschi’s second  essay in perspective.
2. The probable use of sculptural maquettes in conjunction with mirrors by Masaccio.
3. Michelangelo’s use of maquettes for preparatory drawings
4.  Cellini’s casting method is demonstrated to be very close to the method of Phidias.

REMBRANDT’S use of live models and mirrors, indicating that his contemporaries knew a Rembrandt that modern scholarship has all but destroyed; an artist whose example is very important to artists who observe life today.
VELASQUEZ’ use of a large mirror from the Hall of Mirrors at the Royal Palace in Toledo for the composition and rapid completion of his most important masterpiece – “Las Meninas”.
VERMEER’S use of two mirrors in conjunction with a camera-oscura as an aid for painting.

If there were space available in some future museum. I would like to include some of David Hockney’s discoveries as presented in his fim and book “Secret Knowledge”. He is another artist who has made a very considerable contribution to the true history of Art. I found his suggestions about the use of the concave mirror very convincing and also his demonstration of Caravaggio’s methods. In the museum you will see that I have something to add to his ideas about Brunelleschi, Velasquez and Vermeer. What he had to say about Flemish, as opposed to Florentine perspective, I found positively illuminating. Perhaps it could only be explained so well by an artist such as Hockney, who uses photo-collage.

Nigel Konstam
February 2008

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