Dec 132012

I finally received the answer to my letter to the Getty. (see below) It did not surprise me. I have been receiving such refusal from art historians to discuss since I made my Rembrandt discoveries in 1974. The first was from Christopher White, who was then in charge of Rembrandt’s drawings at the British Museum. (He had written a good book on the etchings.) He did not commit himself in writing but after sitting on my first article for over a month he told his colleague, who had assisted me in composing the article, “that it would be very important if Konstam could prove it.” To a scientific mind it was proven then; as far as is possible to prove anything of this nature.

The Burlington Magazine refused my article until E.H.Gombrich called a governors’ meeting at which it was suggested that he should help me re-write it, which he did. The article was then accepted by Benedict Nicholson the editor, who wrote “I find it of the greatest possible interest and so I am sure will Rembrandt scholars, who must now get down to revising the corpus of  drawings.” The appalling revision that has taken place since then has been in the opposite direction to that I proposed.

Pieter Schatborn (recently of the Rijksmuseum) who master-minded the Getty show, translated my second artictle into Dutch. It was printed in Rembrandthuiskroniek (1978) but he has taken no notice of its contents since. I spent an evening with him in his flat taking him through the contents of the book on Rembrandt that I was preparing. He was unable to produce any counter arguments.

My agents informed me that Phaidon had accepted my book “with the whole editorial board behind me” knowing how controversial it was. They only awaited a reader’s report. When it came it was so damning Phaidon dropped the project and ran. On first reading I was shaken myself but on looking into the report I realized it was nothing more than a  cunningly concocted swindle. Thirty years later I am still looking for a brave enough publisher.

After a perfectly reasonable exchange of letters with Martin Royalton Kisch, who had succeeded White at the British Museum, he gave me a hefty thumbs down in his catalogue of Rembrandt Drawings (having entirely ‘misread’ my analysis of two drawings of Rembrandt’s first mistress). I countered with three newspapers (The Save Rembrandt Campaigner) and a showing at St Martin’s in the Fields, to try to get my viewpoint heard at the time of the theoretical debate 1991 “Rembrandt and his Workshop”.

The National Gallery (London) actually took the microphone from me (on the orders of Christopher Brown, then keeper of Dutch paintings there) because I asked to show three slides which would have put an end to their novel and destructive viewpoint. The educated public having suffered from the teachings of The Rembrandt Research Project (RRP) since 1969,  can probably no longer remember the greater Rembrandt. (The RRP and their followers in the departments of drawings have reduced the accepted Rembrandt works by over 50% because of their misguided ideals in art.)

When I asked The National Gallery for space to present an alternative view at that time I got an almost identical letter as that from the Getty. The BBC  has refused to take any further interest after they discovered how my view of Rembrandt upsets the establishment. My view happens to be in complete accord with the known opinion of Rembrandt’s contemporaries. Other publishers and broadcasters have followed suit. For further interest I have scanned similar letters from the RRP and from E.Havercamp Begermann (Yale).

I gave a talk at Harvard  in 1978, which fell on deaf ears. I thought the many doctoral students there would go back to their books and see the sense of my view. Alas, many of that large audience will have been teaching the standard guff  on Rembrandt ever since. The guff is absurdly complicated, Rembrandt is easy to understand if you get the fundamentals right. Rembrandt was the great sign-post for artists saying observe, observe , observe “anything else was worthless in his eyes”.

This controversy between Rembrandt the observer and Rembrandt the inventor, has been successfully swept under the rug  since 1974. Though I have had a few successes at the Wallace Collection and recently The National Gallery where Rembrandt’s  “The Adoration of the Shepherds” rejected by RRP has now been replaced as a Rembrandt, where it belongs. (see YouTube for Konstam saying yes it is, and the National Gallery saying no, it isnt.)

It is difficult to escape thinking that art historians perhaps resent the intrusion of an artist into their private kingdom. Art History belongs to artists and the public at large, we need to get it straight. Look at what has happened to painting since the down-grading of Rembrandt. This is our culture in headlong decay!

I have made several similarly important discoveries in the field of art history and archaeology which have been similarly neglected. Best known is the role of life-casting in ancient Greek sculpture, which featured in the film Athens II as well as the Oxford Journal of Archaeology. The full story can be found in the second edition of my book Sculpture, the Art and the Practice.

Nov 292010

Front Cover of Catalogue

Front Cover of Catalogue

There are so many howlers in the expert assessment of Rembrandt’s nudes that I will limit myself to the two splendid drawings reproduced on the cover of the Getty Catalogue. On the front, is a drawing that is still accepted as by Rembrandt; on the back cover is a better drawing which is now re-attributed to a moderately accomplished student, Arent de Gelder. Both drawings are quite obviously not only by Rembrandt himself but of his mistress, Hendrijke Stoffels: furthermore these drawings are quite clearly investigating the pose of Rembrandt’s painting “Bathsheba” in The Louvre. No previous reputed scholar has had the effrontery to doubt either before.

Nigel's Maquette from back of Getty Catalogue

Nigel's Maquette from back of Getty Catalogue

It is almost besides the point that Rembrandt clearly loved her – we love her – because she is reality framed, simplified, clarified to penetrate the human brain. Through hinted geometry we can find our way across that soft, once muscular back, the nuances of the tone in the shadow, as the light strikes across her back, allows us to caress every limp muscle and protruding bone. This drawing teaches us to love and accept nature as she is – not to fly off to some imagined stereotyped goddess. This is Rembrandt’s gift to us: life as it is – miraculously lovely.

The technical basis for our grasp of what Rembrandt is drawing is straightforward and founded on an ancient tradition of form making. We find forms of geometry hinted at in art. Rembrandt himself was greatly attached to Roman portraits, he owned 30 of them and filled two books with drawings of them. Alas these books have been lost, last heard of in the sale of his goods in 1656. (I have made a DVD which explains Rembrandt’s reliance on three dimensional geometry more fully.)

Here in fig.3 below you see how the figure fits into a block of space (suggested by the plastic frame). The figure conforms to the two sides of the block and her stool gives us the hint that the light confirms. See how her head reaches over to touch the light plane of the block, as does most of the figure. The shadow side is parallel with the back of the stool. Once you see the space every mark that Rembrandt makes on the page is accurately legible within that space. He gives all that is necessary for a sculptor to find the figure in a block of stone ( my figure is modeled in clay). Because the space is so clear the forms within it can be perfectly understood.


Maquette within the block

In fact I prefer this pose to the final version of Bathsheba; the turn of the head away from the indecent suggestion this married woman has received from King David, seems superbly appropriate. We cannot see the letter that is needed to explain the subject and it is probably this that made Rembrandt go for the front view.

While the drawing that is still a Rembrandt is clearly of the same model in nearly the same pose, the geometry is not quite so secure. One can see that Hendrijke has slumped forward a little during the pose. Her distant shoulder has been redrawn lower down. This would have necessarily lowered and swung forward that breast as well but Rembrandt has not made that adjustment, so the front plane of her chest does not quite mesh with the side plane. A very small slip, which may be difficult to see and which those that can see, can easily forgive.

Thus the Getty“experts” are suggesting that de Gelder is more reliable in his geometry than the master. They go on to say “ de Gelder” (the great drawing) “is weaker in the illumination and the rendering of form… above all, it is highly improbable that one artist would draw the same model from the same pose twice”! Highly improbable as it may seem to the “experts” I do it whenever my enthusiasm is aroused. Moving round the figure demonstrates the sculptural side of Rembrandt’s genius. Mr. Giltaij, of the prints and drawings department in Rotterdam, finds “the modelling of the back gives the impression of being over detailed and cautious…the contours (of the figure) are weak and hesitant” such appalling misjudgements are confounded by my ability to make sculpture from the drawing.

In the Getty catalogue the “experts” re-attribute three other former Rembrandt nudes to de Gelder, although the one “sure de Gelder” according to them, is of Jacob being shown Joseph’s blood stained coat (a typical and much tried Rembrandt subject. It is not a great drawing but nonetheless I would guess Rembrandt’s. How can they guess it is by de Gelder with no drawing to compare it with?) They must be stopped! Now!

Nov 022010

Form is a somewhat hidden ingredient of art. Brancusi made it his life’s work to expose form to public view. He dared to call an egg a head, thus demonstrating the classical Greek form of the head. He made these abstract simplifications the final aim of his art. It is also generally agreed that Brancusi was in strong reaction to the work of Rodin and others of his generation, whose work by contrast seemed to be formless but it is not.

Rodin very seldom subscribed to the simple Greek idea of the head. He followed a different tradition of form that we might designate as Roman, as it made its way into Europe following ancient Roman conquests. Very many great artists followed the Roman tradition subconsciously. Rodin would have received its influence not only from the Roman work that abounds in Europe but from many French devotees from Gothic times onwards – Clouet and Houdon were masters of it, and in his own time – Degas, Lautrec stand out. Today’s art critics and historians need to become more aware of this second tradition of form , which is, if anything, more prevalent than the Greek tradition because it is much more useful for analyzing the complexities of nature.

I think it would be true to say that no artist can be considered even of the second rank without subscribing to a tradition of form. Form is a vital ingredient of art. Form is nature simplified so that the human mind can comprehend it. More important than form is the development of a sense of structure.

Structure is the logic with which multiple forms are held together. In sculpture structure is usually to do with the way the building blocks defy gravity. In archaic figures, for instance, the structure is the same post and lintel architecture as the temples they adorned. Classical form is based on the simplified cylinders and cubes which underlie Greek classical sculpture. Their structure is defined by what we all know of the human body – what it can do – and what it cannot do. This is the form that art historians more or less understand. But Rembrandt found that the classical Greek tradition had descended into a stale academicism, moreover, it was too crude spatially to deal with the subtle psychological relationships that interested him.

Rembrandt’s greatness as a draughtsman rests on his extension of the Roman tradition. Rembrandt studied the solid that was so exquisitely defined by the geometry of Holbein and the Romans and extended that geometry to include the intimate space that is so essential in reading psychological situations in the physical world. Rembrandt not only owned 30 Roman portrait busts, he filled two books with studies of them! Alas, these books have been lost.

If Rembrandt scholars could understand that this structuring of space, is where Rembrandt’s greatness lies; we could return to the complete, great master we once knew. Rembrandt’s style of “handwriting”, which so dominates Rembrandt studies today, is quite irrelevant to his greatness. Added to which my Burlington Magazine article of Feb. 1977 demonstrated that their understanding of Rembrandt’s style of handwriting was absurdly wide of the mark. 33 years later, instead of those grave mistakes, we have the atrocities of the Getty show (as outlined in Getty 1- 4 below) which have deprived more than a generation of artists of their greatest master of gestural expressiveness: body-language, and much else. They must be stopped!

I am working on a DVD which I hope will help the experts on their way to a better understanding.

Sep 032010

There is so much I disagree with in the Getty catalogue it will be quicker to name those parts with which I have no argument. There are two students of Rembrandt who though not great are perfectly decent workaday draughtsmen. Their names are Renesse and Hoogstraten. Their style of drawing is not like Rembrandt’s and therefore they have not benefited from the recent handout of drawings that the “experts” have de-attributed from Rembrandt’s portfolio.

I do argue with two others who come into the same category of good, workaday draughtsmen whose work does not in the least resemble Rembrandt’s but have nonetheless benefited from re-attributed Rembrandt drawings. Eekout and Flinck. By what convoluted argument they have been so lucky, the catalogue does not explain.

There is the strange case of Carel Fabritius who was a fine painter but left us no certain drawings. This is not unusual as some painters paint over their preparatory drawings, which were done directly onto the canvas (like Hals and Vermeer). CF has been gifted two very fine and typical Rembrandt drawings, on what grounds we are left to guess. Without comparisons there is nothing to argue about. But he is likely to receive more of the same in future madness.

Johannes Raven, is a comparative newcomer to Rembrandt’s supposed stable of assistants or students. He wrote his name on the back of a drawing, which while not being one of the greatest is almost certainly by Rembrandt. (Rembrandt did many careful drawings in preparation for his etchings, they have all been re-attributed. This looks like one of those.) Had Raven written his name on the front we could agree that he was at least claiming it as his work. However, by signing on the back, I would guess he was only claiming ownership. Surely we all write our names in books for that purpose. Luck was on Raven’s side, the “experts” have overlooked that possibility. A whole raft of life drawings by Rembrandt (mostly of his mistress Hendrijke Stoffels), are now re-attributed to Raven!

Most outrageous of all is the case of Ferdinand Bol whose work as a draughtsman scores a lot lower than the category of decent, workaday. Bol has benefited from a large number of really good or great drawings by Rembrandt. Rembrandt once gave him such a magnificent demonstration of draughtsmanship relating to his, Bol’s, painting of Hagar and the Angel. If, with eyes tight shut, we attribute that drawing to Bol there is no reason why he should not have done other great Rembrandt drawings. With eyes open this mirage vanishes. But the fact remains that at this moment Bol appears great, due to gross misjudgements. With little merit, he has had greatness, thrust upon him!

Those, like Bol, that have benefited from the handout, very much diminish Rembrandt’s stature and obscure his unique contribution to the art of drawing. We now see Rembrandt surrounded by a team of gifted mediocrities, who have made quantum leaps on occasion and who will in due course inherit more of Rembrandt’s greatness, unless, of course, we can unseat the present regime. The uncanny feebleness of modern scholars can only be the result of promoting the most loyal and unquestioning students over several generations of scholarship. They don’t seem to possess eyes or minds of there own. They religiously follow the now untenable theories of their teachers.

Benesch told us that Rembrandt’s “inner vision (of the Biblical subjects) was as if he had seen them in reality”. My experiments demonstrate that he “produced” them in reality by the use of models and that is part of the reason why they are so much more convincing than other artists’ inventions. Unfortunately, for generations we have been fed the idea that what is imagined is superior to what is observed. (Rembrandt himself would have laughed at such a notion.) It is therefore, difficult to persuade today’s art students that they should follow Rembrandt’s example and feed their imagination on reality. Thus, the mythology of Art History has undermined a well tried road to improvement. The “imagination” mythology is yet more dangerous because it diverts our attention from the real world in which we live. Without attention we will falter.

CONCLUSION I hope with these four critiques aimed at the most recent example of Rembrandt scholarship I have conveyed the urgent need for change.

The evidence I have put before you was all there in my Burlington article of February 1977, I have simply amplified it to the point where one can claim that there is no possible room for further doubt. Rembrandt did use large groups of live models, dressed in his extensive theatrical wardrobe, as in the “Adoration of the Shepherds”(see film on YouTube where it is possible to compare the paintings with the photos of the maquettes) on many occasions. An unbiased eye could have deduced the same from a fairly casual perusal of his collected drawings. The mirrors were a proof, which has still not been acknowledged. It needed a desparately biased collective eye to deny the obvious. Many thousands of students have had the wool pulled over their eyes since 1977. This must stop!

Sep 032010

Rembrandt is universally regarded as among the great seers of humanity:
a creative genius. It is worth inquiring how he achieved this
pre-eminence. Unlike his chosen artistic partner Lievens, he was not a
child prodigy. In fact, his early works give no inkling of the genius he
was to become. It is not easy to decide who was the major influence on
his development Lievens or Lastman. Lastman was the master in whose
atelier Rembrandt and Lievens met as students.

I tend to favour Lievens; as Rembrandt’s very short stay with Lastman (6
months) suggests antagonism of some kind. Rembrandt made numerous copies
of Lastman’s work. Perhaps these copies were a compulsory but resented
part of the Lastman teaching. Rembrandt’s copies of Lastman are also
criticisms. On the other hand he learnt rapidly and uncritically from
Lievens. His early Leyden works are very strongly influenced by Lievens.
Rembrandt and Lievens worked together from nature, perhaps this was the
crucial difference between the methods of teaching and speed of
assimilation. If this is so Rembrandt had learnt the prime lesson of the
great leap forward in science. Observing nature directly was the secret
of that success. Furthermore, the documents of Rembrandt’s life give
incontrovertible support to the idea that working from nature was
crucial “anything else was worthless in his eyes”. It is difficult to
see how scholarship came to the opposite conclusion: that Rembrandt
imagined his Biblical pieces. Even today scholars remain convinced of
that idea. Perhaps I should attempt to explain their strange behaviour.

[There are two aspects of recent scholarship that are entirely
undermined by my re-discoveries:

1.  the dating of drawings by style is no longer tenable. The changes
in style are demonstrated to be the result of either different
media or different stimuli: reality, reflection or imagined.

2.  the vast literature on the iconography of Rembrandt and his school
becomes a laughing-stock. All that speculation about the shifts in
emphasis found in the student works are explained by the differing
view point of the physical groups of models in Rembrandt's studio.

These are not mere peccadilloes that can be lightly laughed off. The
scholars are used to being taken seriously, they are entrusted with our
artistic patrimony. These two major gaffs undermine their status as


An unusual characteristic of Rembrandt’s behaviour is his acceptance of
failure as the possible outcome of an experiment. He did not tidy away
his failures as others did. If you accept the greater, more prolific
Rembrandt that I propose, it could be said, he advertised his failure to
draw from the imagination. I interpret this “carelessness” as a
wonderful openness and generosity. He seemed to want us to know how he
had arrived at the summit; perhaps, he did this so that we could emulate
his behaviour and push further with his insights into the working of the
psyche in the physical world.

Rembrandt earned a reputation for leaving his work unfinished but was
unconcerned. Furthermore, only about twenty drawings can be identified
by signature or handwriting, the rest we have to chose according to our
understanding of his aims and style of thought. Rembrandt’s confidence
in his own unique character as an artist was justified. The sensibility
of our “experts” is the issue. For instance ex. 7 & 8 are both typical
of Rembrandt’s concerns and his habits as an artist. The little dog in
Ex.9 is a veritable Rembrandt trademark! He loved dogs and could
obviously draw them from memory, unlike his angels.

Example 7

Example 7

No.7 has been re-attributed to Drost, in spite of the fact that
Rembrandt did an etching of precisely this subject. The treatment of the
clasped hands of Tobias could hardly be closer to the hands of his
mother in the drawing still accepted as a Rembrandt; reproduced in the
catalog opposite for contrast. The angel has that clumsy feel of
Rembrandt constructing from imagination rather than observing. All the
other figures express shock as we would expect from Rembrandt.

Example 8

Example 8

Ex.8 is re-attributed to an unidentified student of Rembrandt. We are
therefore unable to compare with known examples. We can be certain that
the central group would be much closer to the Rembrandt on the opposite
page. In fact, the “mocker” is so typical of Rembrandt and better
realized here, than in the accepted drawing. If I was going to talk of
the style of this figure I would be referring to it’s compactness, its
sculptural quality, it’s balance, it’s geometry and it’s expressive
quality. The handwriting is of no importance to it’s quality as art. If
we talk about the style of Dickens we are looking at his entire
philosophy, his use of words, not his handwriting! Why can we not get
Scotland Yard onto these drawings to compare inks, pens etc. they would
make a far better job. Our experts are to be pitied, not to be listened to.

Fortunately, Rembrandt signed and dated his etching plates. Therefore
the etchings and paintings give us a fairly reliable foundation on which
to build. They give me the feeling of a man so absorbed in his journey
that he will sacrifice whatever is necessary in craftsmanship,
draughtsmanship or detail to keep up the momentum. “A picture is
finished when the painter feels he has expressed his intention in
it.”(Rembrandt as reported by Houbraken). What an excellent example for
us all: this is why his intentions are so obvious to some of us. His
drawings should be seen as steps towards finding his intention: that is
his interpretation of the Bible story. Ex.1.expresses a particular
relationship between Lot and the Angel, this is Rembrandt at work with
his practical brand of imagination: sodomy is a male concern, forget the
pillar of salt.

There are many important lessons we can learn from Rembrandt:-

One, is not to be frightened of failure, we need to learn to acknowledge
our failures and then learn from them.

A second lesson is to learn to feed one’s imagination. Rembrandt did
this by producing model groups in his studio; the closest he could get
to the actual occurrence (the Bible story). This was a part of his art.
His unique success in depicting human relationships lies in the physical
“production” of the re-enactment. “He would spend a day or even two
adjusting the folds of a turban until he was satisfied”. We can presume
that he spent equal time arranging his actors.

Third, was his drawing strategy: he put top priority on the disposition
of the masses in space. This is how the physical pose expresses the
spirit of his protagonists so brilliantly. Perhaps, this can be
appreciated more fully by those who practice drawing or acting
themselves. The scholars’ study of style amounts to no more than the
study of the idiosyncrasies of his handwriting, which they have then
misinterpreted and over played.

The scholars’ search for “ the leaner, fitter Rembrandt” has pruned away
most of these valuable lessons for artists. We must learn to see
Rembrandt’s drawings as he himself saw them: as journeys of discovery,
which only occasionally end with the hoped for, pot of gold.
Surprisingly, Rembrandt did not sign the jewels, he signed his gifts in
autograph albums etc. which were often from imagination


Example 9 Homer

and therefore mediocre. He unwisely left it to the taste of the connoisseurs
to recognise his true hand. He even left proof of authorship on his
least satisfactory products.

Ex.10, B.960 Jupiter with Philemon and Baucis, an illuminating inability. Rembrandt has had to write the story that the drawing fails to tell.

Ex.10, B.960 Jupiter with Philemon and Baucis, an illuminating inability. Rembrandt has had to write the story that the drawing fails to tell.

The museum“experts” tend to see the drawings as valuable items in a
collection, and their job as to weed out the duds. I hope I have shown
sufficient reason why we do not want that weeding to continue; we lose
much too much in the process. Tragically today’s scholars are not good
at weeding. Through their pruning over the last 100 years we have lost
sight of many of Rembrandt’s greatest drawings . Their confidence swells
as the great Rembrandt shrinks; they must be stopped!

Aug 232010
My experiments with maquettes and mirrors have given me a fresh insight
into Rembrandt's modus operandi; which give me a true grasp of his
strengths and weaknesses. Even sensitive scholars relying on instinct
cannot rival this knowledge. The fact that my findings are entirely in
accord with the documents of his contemporaries and near contemporaries;
must add considerably to their credibility. My findings are completely
at odds with today's “experts”.

In his introduction to the Dover edition of the “Drawings of Rembrandt”
and his School, Prof. Slive sites the near unanimity as reason for
giving extra credence to scholarly opinion. I would argue, on the
contrary, that it demonstrates the hopelessly hierarchical system of
promotion within the discipline of art history: a structure that
systematically eliminates any heresy.

[My own experience as a rising star that was subverted by the unanimous
voice of the Rembrandt “experts” I need not repeat here.
Suffice it to say that without the democratizing influence of internet
my voice would have been effectively silenced. The other media have not
given me space for over 25 years though my discovery was once hailed as
“The Rembrandt Revelation” by The Observer. Apparently the “experts” can
successfully defend the indefensible by drowning my solid evidence with
the sheer volume of their babble. The present volume is a striking
example of this phenomenon.]

Criticism of The Biblical Subjects

I limit myself to the Biblical Subjects because that is where my
evidence is grounded. This catalogue breaks with normal precedent by not
making it clear just how far it strays from earlier scholarly opinion.
It strays very far indeed. Over 20 of the drawings here attributed to
pupils were accepted by Otto Benesch in 1954. In not one single case can
the student suggested by these authors be shown to have even a hint of
Rembrandt's characteristic gifts, nor for that matter, his weaknesses. I
will attempt to define these as we look at the examples.

Lot being let out of Sodom by an angel

B.129 Lot being led out of Sodom by an angel

Example 1. A drawing of Lot and his family being led out of Sodom by an Angel, was accepted as a Rembrandt by Benesch, B.129 in his 1954 catalogue. It has been re-attributed to one Jan Victors, of whom few people will ever have heard, nor is there any proof that he was ever a student of Rembrandt's. His paintings are undoubtedly Rembrandt inspired in colour and tone but his idea of form is much more classical than Rembrandt's. The two Victors drawings reproduced in the catalogue to back the re-attribution have nothing in common with this, other than the use of brown ink as a medium. They are feeble by any standard. This (B.129) on the other hand is characteristic of Rembrandt in two important respects: Lot himself is typical of Rembrandt when drawing from life – the clasped hands are an oft recurring item – the head is typical, particularly in the modification of the line of the forehead, which turns Lot slightly in our direction so he does not present us with a pure profile.
B.129 Lot's face

B.129 Lot's face

His stance is suitably expressive of discomfort, his cloak recognisable from Rembrandt's theatrical wardrobe. But most characteristic of Rembrandt are the accompanying figures behind Lot. They are not observed from life but invented and therefore “ worthless in his (Rembrandt's) eyes”. I know of no other artist but Rembrandt who would be prepared to demonstrate just how worthless he is “without life in front of him”. For me the pose of the leading angel is of a different and superior order, he probably has been sketched from life. The very different quality of these figures make it certain that Benesch was right and the present authors, dangerously misleading.
Mother Suckling a baby

B.359 Mother Suckling a baby

Example 2. A mother suckling a baby B.359 is one of Rembrandt's most lovely drawings. If anyone can accept that Bol might possibly have drawn the “Hagar and the Angel” the subject matter of my film then of course there is no reason why Bol should not have drawn many of Rembrandt's greatest successes, however, the quality of his real drawing
Bol: Hagar and the Angel

Bol: Hagar and the Angel

and the pathetic quality of his painted Hagar make this quite impossible. Bol's box of drawings in the Rijksmuseum does, alas, contain many of Rembrandt's most precious pearls.
Jesus mistaken for a gardener

b.537 Jesus mistaken for a gardener

Example 3. also now attributed to Bol once B.537, of Christ mistaken for a gardener, is another splendid example of the way Rembrandt can catch, with a few well selected directions of limbs and perfect sense of balance, a most relaxed pose. Vintage Rembrandt, an unerring sense of space.
Esau sells his birthright

B.564 Esau sells his birthright

Example 4. of Esau selling his birthright to Jacob for a bowel of potage, B.564 could hardly be more typical of Rembrandt, particularly as the second superfluous bowel suggest that the drawing is loosely based on a mirror image.
Attributed to Flink

B.121 An actor being crowned. Now attributed to Flinck

B.122 a Bishop

B.122 a Bishop: attributed to Eeckout

Examples 5 & 6 B.121 & B.122 are infinitely closer to Rembrandt's many drawings of actors than to anything known from Flinck or Eeckout to whom they are now re-attributed. This madness must be stopped! I could go on and on but this is probably enough for now.
Aug 152010

There was an exhibition at The Rembrandthuis at the turn of the year 84/85 that gave ample reason to fear the madness that has now been carried through with a vengeance at the Getty. Nonetheless the devastation of Rembrandt’s portfolio has left me dumbfounded. The level of corporate madness is beyond belief, The Director of the Getty welcomes this volume, “Drawings by Rembrandt and his Pupils, telling the difference” as ’stunning and momentous’ I agree but not in the sense that Michael Brand probably intends.

Anyone who approaches this enormous volume in the hope of understanding what distinguishes the greatest master from his pupils will be sorely disappointed. In the majority of cases there is no difference because the specimens held up as by pupils are the result of recent re-attribution and are clearly by Rembrandt himself. As a result we see the master as surrounded by little known nonentities who could, when they felt like it, turnout masterpieces which had fooled generations of experts but not apparently Mr. Schatborn and his colleagues. The arrogance takes one’s breath away.

Rembrandt scholarship of the last 50 years has been an escalating disaster, Benesch’s catalogue of 1954, which I would wish to enlarge has been reduced by approximately 50% and the resulting bonanza of master drawings handed out indiscriminately to obviously unworthy students. Indeed, in some cases they cannot even be shown to have been students. The idea that anyone has the ability to suddenly turn out a drawing that has passed for a Rembrandt because of its penmanship and sharpness of observation and then chosen to revert back to their middling talent is just too absurd. This catastrophe can only have resulted from the inbreeding of Rembrandt scholarship. No new blood or ideas are allowed to enter. The Rembrandt Mafia have hermetically sealed themselves from the intrusion of advice from the practitioners.

No draughtsman could possibly go along with the recent misjudgments, where some of Rembrandt’s finest drawings have been handed out to mediocrities or, in the case of Carel Fabritius, to a fine painter who had not previously shown a talent for drawing. There is no evidence whatever that these scholars have the least idea of what makes a great drawing (see for details).

Some of the reproductions in this lavishly produced volume are so small as to preclude the necessary comparisons. Common sense forces me to believe that scholarship since my article in “The Burlington Magazine” February 1977 is not only misguided but verging on fraudulent. Anyone contemplating a libel action on the strength of this statement should study that article and the letter from Prof. E.Haverkamp Begerman which conveniently summarizes the false assumptions on which Rembrandt scholars have continued to destroy Rembrandt in the face of my own evidence and the unanimous voice of Rembrandt’s contemporaries.

The crucial points are

1.Rembrandt “would not attempt a single brush-stroke without a living model before his eyes”(Houbraken). Or, “Our great Rembrandt was of the same opinion that one should follow only nature, anything else was worthless in his eyes.” (Karel van Mander as reported by Houbraken) and there are many more quotes of the same character. The scholars would have us believe exactly the opposite: that Rembrandt actually taught his students to invent, not to observe.

  1. The evidence in My article “Rembrandt’s Use of Models and Mirrors” proves, beyond reasonable doubt, that these statements are remarkably accurate. The proof of groups of live models in Rembrandt’s studio for the Biblical and other group subjects is incontestable. My recent film on Youtube “Rembrandt’s Adoration of the Shepherds” makes the same point on a grand scale. There we see practically the entire subject matter of two paintings (one seen direct and the other observed from Rembrandt’s same position but reflected in an angled sheet of polished pewter, accurately recorded by Rembrandt even to the extent that the more impressionistic technique suggests the blurred quality of the image reflected in polished metal. Both paintings were once accepted as by Rembrandt). The chances of these very complex space relationships happening by chance, or being constructed by calculation must be millions to one against. There are just too many reversals seen from a different point of view. To suggest, as Prof. E.Van der Wetering does that these were typical exercises in Rembrandt’s atelier is unacceptable lunacy.

This evidence which cuts the ground from under the scholars view is not mentioned let alone discussed in the Getty catalogue. For instance in the penultimate and last paragraph p19-20 explain how Rembrandt’s etching of “The Dismissal of Hagar”1637 “made a great impression on his pupils and inspired many variants….we do not know precisely how drawing from the imagination was handled in Rembrandt’s atelier…..” Yet I, Konstam, have explained precisely how Rembrandt himself developed eleven variants of the same subject from the group of three live models posed in his studio; observing sometimes direct, and sometimes in a mirror to their left and at other times in a mirror behind them, but always from the same seat in his studio. The DVD is available on also in the Arts Review Yearbook 1989, not to mention my unpublished book; freely circulated among the Rembrandt establishment many years before.

Peter Schatborn who master-minded the catalogue of The Rembrandthuis exhibition from his position in charge of the prints and drawings at the Rijksmuseum, was also the major contributor of the exhibition at The Getty. He can hardly claim ignorance of my discoveries as he translated my second article into Dutch for inclusion in The Rembrandthuiskroniek in 1978.

The fact is that today’s art theorists seem to have no understanding of the importance of observation in human affairs. It is not enough that scientists are so good at it, their observations are specialized; artistic observation is also specialized but specialized in a different area, an area where neglect is already horrifyingly apparent. By destroying Rembrandt, the figurehead of observed art, the theorists have slued modern art with such success we have to doubt whether it can ever recover. First we must recover The Greater Rembrandt by putting an end to Rembrandt scholarship as it now exists.

Do not burn their books, preserve them as a warning to future generations of experts.

Feb 082010

As predicted there are plenty of absurdities at the Getty exhibition of “Drawings by Rembrandt and his Pupils”, some you can now see on line. When I receive the catalog there will be more on this blog.

Here are some notes on the Getty website comparisons to help you sort out the mess:-

    1.    Lievens, was a fellow student with Rembrandt at Lastman’s atelier. When they set up studio together Lievens was the better draftsman.  Rembrandt learned more from Livens than from Lastman.  (That is probably why Rembrandt only stayed with Lastman 6 months.) Eventually Rembrandt surpassed Livens as a draftsman.  It is therefore misleading to include Lievens in this exhibition as he was not a student of Rembrandt’s.  I accept the Lievens Rembrandt judgement.  NK

    2.  Flink,  was a student of Rembrandt’s.  He was a fairly good draftsman and painter.  However,  his drawings are not similar to Rembrandt. Judgment accepted NK

    3.  Bol a pathetic student of mythological subjects  was unable to learn from the master in spite of brilliant lessons in drawing (see Hagar and the Angel – “One does not Know whether to Laugh or Cry”). see also “The Finding of Moses” & “Pomona”. Bol wisely specialized  in portraiture later.Both these drawings are clearly by Rembrandt;  look at the hands, feet and fur hat. Bol’s “brilliance” is always due to the recent robbery of Rembrandt’s portfolio by the “experts”. Judgment absurd, refuted NK

    4.   Landscapes – I do not comment on the landscapes.

    5.  Renesse was one of Rembrandt’s better students. Certainly a student NK

    6.  House on the Bullwark – I do not comment on the landscapes.

    7. Eeckhout, was a diligent student of Rembrandt’s.  accepted NK

    8.  Hoogstraten was a student of Rembrandts.  (I hope you will recognise  mundane version of the same set in a barn as in my movie of “The Adoration of the Shepherds)”. Judgement accepted NK

    9.  Raven may have been a student of Rembrnadt’s.  However, he had no drawings to his credit until experts discovered his name on the back of a Rembrandt drawing (presumably because he owned it).  It is a complete disgrace that Raven was ever considered the author of this drawing. Note that the model is again Hendrikje Stoffels. Is it likely that Raven and co get invited in to draw Rembrandt’s mistress? absurd, refuted NK

    10.  Unkown student -this drawing is clearly by Rembrnat absurd judgment NK