The Philosophy of “New Humanism”

We live in a society that acknowledges wisdom from diverse civilizations. In the Renaissance sense ours is a humanist society: The Greek philosophy “ know thyself” is generally accepted as a useful principle for life. Yet contemporary museums and art schools have all but banned the study of humanity from their interests.

This anomaly stems from a moment in art in the late 19th C when sentimentality seemed to overwhelm the more abstract considerations of art. As a reaction we have drifted further and further into abstraction at the expense of the central core of the visual arts: the expression of the spirit of Man in the physical world: ”Humanism”

It is the artist’s privilege to sift through the ideas of mankind and high-light those most relevant to our lives today. Artists and thinkers hope to clarify and possibly add to those thoughts, contributing to the slow evolution of mankind’s higher-self. This fundamental activity has been overlooked by recent art-promoters in search of novelty. The results are seen in our museums and galleries today. To be original it is only necessary to be true to one’s self.

After more than a hundred years of neglect it is time for artists to return to the study of human behaviour. As a species we are losing our ability to read each others feelings and as a result; losing contact with the humanism in the art of the great masters of the past.

New Humanism is based on the ability to observe and interpret human feelings and behaviour. Rembrandt’s priorities as an artist were “to maximize the expresssion of feeling”. He has more to teach us about observing the human condition than any other master. His vision is necessary for our survival as a species. Humanism needs to regain its former position at the top of the artistic agenda. Art matters!


At Verrocchio Arts Centre we are teaching the history of art necessary for artists. This approach is also essential for future art historians if they are to understand the evolutionary necessity of vision: receiving, observing, interpreting the world about us. Direct study from life of how the human spirit expresses itself in the physical world develops our intuition; the experts have lost it. (see Rembrandt’s school acted out the scenes they worked from. We re-affirm his great example.

In the summer months we conduct courses of 2 weeks duration, in painting, sculpture and drawing. for information contact

In the winter Nigel Konstam is teaching sculpture and drawing and renting rooms, apartments and studio space at off-season prices. At the same time he works on his own sculpture and art-historical DVDs. In special cases apprenticeships can be negotiated. Those interested in winter study with Nigel should contact him –

Verrocchio Arts Centre, The Museum of Artists’ Secrets
via San Michele, 16, same addres53031 Casole d’Elsa,
SI, Italy.
Tel. 0039-0577-948312 fax. -399

2 Responses to “Philosophy”

  1. NK says:

    Thank you for your participation Robin. I hope we meet one day. I said Rembrandt was the most evolved humanly and I stick by that, though I admire all the artists you name. I am very glad to hear of all the pleinaireism you speak of. Keep in touch.

  2. Dear Mr. Konstam,

    I would be wary of naming one artist above all others to whom we ought to look for guidance concerning New Humanism. I can name quite afew others who have brought the human condition so admirably to our attention: Andrew Wyeth (1918-2009), Edgar Degas, Velasquez, Goya, Henri de Toulosue Lautrec, to name but a few.
    I think, also it would be difficult of successfully promoting a “return to” in these times in which it has become all-important to “sample and choose’ from the wide variety of goods and services offered the public (think of internet!).
    For years I was sad about the loss of values I was taught by my old (now deceased) art teacher for whom observation came first and foremost where painting was concerned. But I have only recently discovered that a new international movement in painting is developing: pleinairism. There are many blogs by primarily young artists who paint “one a day”, and/or celebate the joy of working in situ. My remark, after seeing literally dozens and dozens of blogs, would be: sure, great to be out in the open and paint, and great to do an oil a day, but, er, would it be possible to perhaps produce less paintings but produce better ones? Such a euphoria emanates from these blogs and sites, but very little that stands the test of serious analysis. To many of these “artists” the event is what counts; it’s pumping that adrenaline through your body. There are also more and more clips showing young artists sketching models, again, like an event witnessed by an audience (see artist david Kassan sketching a portrait in Portugal in front of an audience). It might look superficial, and it often is, but there are a lot of people out there working from observation, many more than back in the 70s and 80s —when I felt I was an anomaly, a neanderthal, a Ford Model T on the A1, and I gave up hope. Almost. In time, perhaps, I hope, others will evolve from this movement of pleinairism, we’ll be seeing great talents, and lesser talents that work hard and get great results worthy of the public’s attention. I’m still hoping.

    Best wishes,


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