Jul 252011

An edited excerpt from something I wrote in 1971 (Leonardo vol.4)

I have clung to the figure because I find in it a model of great complexity with a wide variety of jointing, scale and mass, and one with which we are all familiar. We not only know what it looks like from the outside: we know what it feels like from the inside. The slightest deviation form the expected norm is noted and questioned. Every human eye is attuned to the figure more precisely than even the educated eye is attuned to mathematical proportions. When one adds to this the geometric, architectural and rhythmic associations that have accumulated around the figure during its long evolution, it become clear that there is a widely available basis for understanding the purely formal meaning of figurative sculpture, which I find lacking in non figurative work. Figurative art is capable of dealing with human emotions in a simple and direct way.

One of the tragic side affects of non figurative art, in my view, has fallen upon art education. We are producing art students who have little or no interest in the art of the past, thus destroying the communion of artists: that sense of partaking in a timeless communion certainly gives me a sense of well being. Indeed, it seem to me to be the only certain reward for the serious study of art. Moreover, I am convinced that the sense of belonging to a privileged circle with access to inner meanings is an important ingredient of the aesthetic experience. If my view is right, estrangement form the past is surely too greater price to pay for the understandable dissatisfaction with the old academies of art.

Communication in art, as in everything else, must be based on a collection of symbols that are commonly understood. I realise that new forms sometimes have to be invented to express genuinely new experiences. However, the huge transformations in art that have taken place in the last fifty years have all but disintegrated the slowly evolving complex of commonly understood visual symbols. More important, does not the effort of making language describe our experiences force us to re-examine and refine the experiences ourselves? Surely only when the present language proves inadequate for our expression can we allow ourselves the indulgence of linguistic invention. To me a newly invented ‘form’ is simply a novelty. Originality must contain a new insight which may or may not need a new ‘form’ for its expression.

Jul 242011

There are many voices from the past that would lead one to accept the broadest, grandest view of Rembrandt. It is difficult to comprehend how the academics missed them.
J.von Sandrart wrote – he was fascinated by every manifestation of art…..he made skillful use of reflections…….his subject matter was usually taken from everyday life…etc
F.Baldinucci wrote – one can barely make out the other figures from one another though they had all been painted from life and with great care…the knowledge that his prospective clients had to sit for him for two or three months caused few people to commission him…etc
A.Felibien wrote – how one can get any satisfaction from looking at such badly finished pictures….so gross as to make one believe that it is only half-sketched etc.
R.de Piles wrote – he himself said that his art was the imitation of nature and, since this included everything, he collected ancient suit of armour, ancient musical instruments, old clothes and a multitude of ancient, embroidered cloths,… all one finds (in Rembrandt) is what the character of his country, filtered through a vivid imagination, is capable of producing….he had a wonderful talent for reproducing concrete subjects…..Even though his outlines may not be correct. His drawings themselves are full of sensitivity etc
A.Houbraken wrote – so many variations and so many different aspects of one and the same subject. This was the result of careful observation…..with his tendency to change and turn to some new experience. He only half finished a great number of his paintings, and a still greater number of his etchings. Only the ones he did finish can give us any idea of the beauty we could have expected from his works had he completed them as he started them. Etc

One could go on and on there is so much evidence of the great, experimental Rembrandt that I have rediscovered, as opposed to the small-minded, less interesting “leaner, fitter Rembrandt” favoured by the experts. What were all those old clothes for if not to equip his models? Every one of his contemporaries tells the same story that favours my interpretation of the facts and the interpretation of previous scholars.

Among the epithets flung at me by Van der Wetering at our encounter was “you hate art historians” in fact I feel very sorry for them. POOR, BLIND , MICE, one might say – but they are dangerous – somehow they have got hold of the “carving knife” that guides our culture. Probably because they produce unanimous decisions on very expensive art objects, where artists could be guaranteed to argue. We would be better off with the discussion. The unanimity is due to the hierarchical constitution of art history, sticking together for strength; it works! But has caused disaster.

They have stuck together successfully stopping me reaching a wider public in spite of my superior evidence (for 36 years). This could constitute reason for hate, were not my character so charitably inclined to sympathy. One should be allowed to go on criticizing an institution that is damaging to us all, without accusations of hate.

Jul 182011


We have just had our Palio and I am rather pleased with my photo. I would have been even more dramatic had I waited another second. Rivelino led all the way and we were second, to the relief of many. The drumming and partying can become very wearing. It was lovely weather and still is.

Jul 162011

The reform of art history is one of the most pressing needs of our civilization. The desperate errors of judgment that are being perpetrated by our art experts on a daily basis in both modern and ancient art must indicate that something is amiss. I have made more discoveries in the field of art history than anyone alive or dead, yet very few are interested in learning to see what I see. Rembrandt, the greatest humanist artist that has ever lived, is in serious danger of being eliminated from our cultural history.

Surely an artist has equal or better claims on the subject of seeing than an art historian. Observation is after all my daily practice as a sculptor. Whereas, to tell the truth, art historians seem much more interested in each others books than in the objects they claim to be studying. I have the huge advantage over the professionals that I come to those objects without the inbuilt prejudices with which art history blinkers its students. I have considerable practical knowledge in the case of sculpture, casting and drawing. In the case of painting at least I understand what an artist can produce from his unaided memory. The theories of art history are a sick joke in that respect.

During my lecture at Harvard I was told that “in the 17th century artists did not even need still-lives in front of them.” When I asked how they got that idea, the answer came back – certain flower paintings have flowers in them that do not bloom at the same season! I pointed out that flowers wilt, that flower painters pick their specimens one at a time – this caused consternation to all concerned.

This kind of nonsense was meant to justify the idea that Rembrandt did no need models to draw from. An idea that I could see was completely untrue in a ten minute flick through of his drawings. Equal research in the documents of those who actually knew Rembrandt confirmed my certainty that he set up groups of actors to draw from.

As a culture we have tolerated the steady destruction of the Rembrandt in the full glare of publicity, with few a murmurs of complaint. Wake up, you are living in a time of unprecedented descent into visual barbarism. If you are happy with myths stick with art history as it is; otherwise learn to see –

THE REFORM OF ART HISTORY is a 2 week course that will be run on demand from a quorum of 5. Lectures and discussion will be interspersed with practical drawing and sculpture.
Apply to nkonstam@ verrocchio.co.uk

Jul 162011

The museum consists of maquettes and instruments with which Nigel Konstam made a number of important discoveries in the field of art history and archaeology. There are also a number of DVDs and documents which explain the reasoning that made him determined to suggest reforms in those faculties. Artists should again take the lead in cultural decision making.

The subjects covered in the museum are in chronological order :- a
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. Artists who have used it since, like Mantagna, Holbein, Rembrandt and Giacometti, are also represented in the museum.
1an appreciation of the works of Rinaldo da Siena recently discovered under the cathedral.
2reasons 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.
4Lorenzo Maitani’s great work is on the facade of Orvieto Duomo 112sq m. of relief sculpture of very high quality. We have a film showing how he was able to accurately transmit his art to his assistants.

1The probable use of a polished silver mirror in Brunelleschi’s 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-obscura as an aid for painting.

Jul 012011

I am a revolutionary, a cultural revolutionary. If you are happy with a status quo in art that has destroyed Rembrandt along with most of the cultural norms that have been in place since art began, you need not read on. If on the other hand you are dissatisfied with the present state of barbarism, I have a lot of homework for you. This museum is well stocked. Much I have said before on my blog and on Youtube but here they are arranged in an order that makes more sense: the chronology of the art rather than the chronology of my discoveries; with links to the relevant YouTube films

I made these discoveries over the last 40 years and though the evidence comes from a wide variety of primary sources (the works themselves) and many have been published in top rank art periodicals they have not been heeded. The facts that emerge from my investigations are often greatly at variance with established art history, where my work has met with unrelenting resistance. This is hardly surprising as the discoveries effectively pull the red carpet from under the feet of many of the mighty in art history and archaeology.

Normally such a radical revolution has to be implemented with machine guns but as they would seem out of place in a cultural debate, I have had to resort to naming names in order to try to provoke a response from a faculty that has up till now resisted with sullen silence, distortions or outright lies. To avoid blackening a whole profession I should mention that I have won most useful support from such prestigious names as Prof, Sir Ernst Gombrich, Slade Professor Sir Lawrence Gowing and archaeologist Herbert Hoffmann.

The Internet has provoked successful revolutions in the middle-east. Let us see if it can provoke a velvet revolution in culture. The public has the right to decide whether I am the crank I am often taken for, or the prophet of a new and better age in art, as I myself presume. Without your public participation with comments I can achieve nothing. This site is interactive. I am retiring from one of my day-time jobs (as director of the Verrocchio Arts Centre) in order to devote more time to this and my work as a sculptor/teacher.