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I came out of the army in early spring and so had two terms of freelancing before September enrollment in a proper course. I took a number of drawing classes at St. Martin's with the intention of training to be a fashion drawer. It was the most valuable interlude because during that time I felt a complete misfit in fashion (which uncle Robert Harling had advised as a good payer) and did some sculpture in the evening classes. I took to it naturally. I had done some sculpture at school but as no one else did it I had no idea it was my metier. At St. Martin’s there were many full-time students with whom I could compare myself. It did not take me long to discover that sculpture was my special gift and I was a misfit in fashion. On the recommendation of my cousin (Lorna Dunn) I moved on to Camberwell to study sculpture.

Had I remained at St Martins I would have been in the thick of the most modern sculptural education in the world. There were 50 members of staff, led by Anthony Caro and endless students who became a byword in modern circles, mostly welding steel together in stylish pointlessness. Caro had taught me in evening class and gave perfectly good advice. He had been a star student at the RA Schools; then an assistant of Henry Moore’s. But soon after I left he went to USA and came back preaching David Smith etc. Neither of us knew it at the time but we appear on the same Piza family tree, Grandma’s. He became very famous and so did his school but I did not regret my move.

At Camberwell I spent a year studying for ‘Intermediate’. That year of general art was crucial to my subsequent artistic development. My attitude to drawing changed radically as a result of fierce criticism from the staff. I learned to love Rembrandt rather than Tiepolo and the classical draughtsmen I had previously modelled myself upon. At the sculpture school we spent almost all the time working from life models at life-size. The normal length of pose was 6 weeks, nearly always the models stood for ¾ of an hour with a ¼ of an hours rest, from 10 till 4.30 with a break for lunch. It was hard on the models but a huge benefit to the students. I stayed in the sculpture school just over 2 years.

Dr. Carel Vogel who was head of sculpture had been trained in Munich. But for the rise of Hitler he would have become a professor there. His doctorate was in archaeology and he was a passionate admirer of Classical Greek sculpture. (I dread to think what he would have done had he lived long enough to hear of my discovery that the Greek ‘leap of the imagination’ was in fact a technical improvement in casting from life!) He and I never got on all that well as I was a follower of Rembrandt and therefore fairly cool about the Greeks. Though he did start drawing for the first time in his life under my influence and he did well. I have one of his drawings.

I admire his small bronzes of which he made quite a few. Alas when he died at little over 60 his wife willed them all to some distant relative in Germany. I doubt whether there are any left in Britain. He was well enough know to have a sculpture in the first Battersae Park exhibition. But by the time I was his student he was persecuted by the LCC inspectors for being so old fashioned

During my second year I found a garage/studio in Tufnell Park and left Camberwell to pursue my art before completing the course there. Camberwell Sculpture Department was chronically short of candidates for the National Diploma exam. I was persuaded to return to take that exam which included a small thesis, quite a trial for me. I took the exam and along with the large majority of students of that year, failed. The examiners were Arnold Machin and John Skeaping, both rather craft oriented.

Barnet Freedman was a patient of my father’s and felt he owed him a big favour. The favour turned out to be getting me into the Royal College of Art; but without asking me whether I wanted to go. I had tried for the Slade and failed to get in. They were the top two schools and were very different from one another, Skeaping was professor at the College. It was very commercially oriented. To be honest I despised Skeaping’s work. He personally, was a charming rogue (#Me Too would have had him but things were very different then). There was considerable prestige attached to the Royal College, furthermore, my then girl-friend Anna had ascended from the textiles department at Camberwell to textiles at the Royal College. I accepted Barnet’s gift without enthusiasm.

In retrospect I am glad I attended the RCA. The Camberwell culture was very restricted and inward looking. I learned at the College that my contemporaries could be very dedicated to their work even if they had not participated in Camberwell culture. It made me much more tolerant of other people’s approaches. Funnily enough my years intake had all failed their NDD as I had. To add to the injury in my case County Hall at the LCC kept my work as a sample of that years achievment! Presumably Skeaping had chosen the failures from a large application.

I also learned bronze casting on a small, homespun scale at the RCA, which was most valuable. Leon Underwood had just introduced his method of casting at the College. The scale of the operation was small. They could hardly melt 12 lbs of bronze when I was there, where at Camberwell we were pouring 100 lbs with a very professional furnace that seemed way beyond the means of an individual. While at the College I bought myself an ex-army cooker which was a good step up on the large blow-lamp that they were using. I built my own furnace and was able to pour 25lbs immediately. My second furnace melted 100 lbs with the same cooker. I was on my way.

After I left the RCA installed a very professional foundry, which would not have served my needs so well. I was probably instrumental to a number of sculptors setting up foundries on their own behalf. Bronze casting is a very expensive business but 90% of the cost is in the labour; so if you do it yourself it becomes possible, even a way of earning a crust in a profession where that is very difficult by other means. I met Mike Gillespie through the college though he wa not an official student there, he was a wonderful source of help in casting and a good friend thereafter. He went on using the blowlamp as a professional caster; he was a very thorough and a dedicated craftsman who did a lot of Frinks small bronzes..

I really enjoyed the architectural lectures we had from J.Cadbury Brown at the Royal College. They meant a lot to me. Kenneth Armitage from Corsham talked the same architectural language. (Later Armitage got a studio half a mile from mine.I had looked at the ex-stables when it still smelt of horse before I found Norland Sq.) Other lecturers at the College were boring and so were the sculpture staff. I was dismayed by Skeaping’s own demonstration of modelling a portrait head. It was so lacking in cultural reference, provincial and formulaic.

I also met my wife Janet there, another benefit of my stay. She was much better qualified than I with two art diplomas and an ARCA. When I finally set up my own art school we shared her honours by advertizing teaching by Nigel and Janet Konstam ARCA! I doubt whether I would have done much better at the Slade which had a name for painting not for sculpture. Vogel’s teaching had been on a much higher plane. My cousin Lorna’s advice had been very good.

When Barnet died at the end of the summer term I left the college with relief. While I was there I modelled the first version of “The Good Samaritan” at about half the size of my final stone carving of the same subject here in Casole, (made 42 years later). I was very pleased with it but it did not cause a ripple at the college. Their tastes were more for slick modelling in the manner of Manzu or Greco, while I finished the clay more like shuttered concrete. The two heroes who had left the year before I arrived at the RCA were Ralph Brown and Sid Harpley, both very competent in that idiom. Both from Hammersmith, a college I might well have chosen for myself had I not been guided to Camberwell. Young people are not necessarily the best judges of what is best for themselves.

When I left the College, I searched for a bigger studio and found the bargain of my life – a house with a studio in the garden of 40 Norland Square. The house was full of controlled rent tenants and was more or less thrown in at no extra cost. The property market changed so radically after my coup that none of my fellow students who left college two years later with ARCA after their name could begin to afford such a place. It’s value simply went on increasing fast (£1000 per month) till I left for Italy 24 years later. I had some change out of the £5000 Dad had given all three children to invest.

I cast my own bronzes (up to life-size) which saved a lot of expense but added enormously to the time taken on each work. I sold little but augmented my income with teaching both at home and as a visiting lecturer in art schools. I was swimming against the current of fashion my whole career. It was very difficult to interest patrons or critics in anything figurative. The abstract vogue has been with us now for so long that scarcely any critic has the knowledge to comment on humanism. Probably future generations will find it hard to believe how sudden and complete the move was to abstraction, a stable culture can disappear in a year and judging by the fall of the Roman Empire can take a thousand years to reestablish at any level.

I had the advantage of being one of a very small minority that was still able or willing to teach life drawing; an exercise that previous generations regarded as fundamental. So I got called in occasionally to teach special projects at art schools. Such peripathetic teaching was remarkably well paid in those days. Many artsts relied on no more than 2 days a week to keep them going. I had a reliable one day at Wimbledon for several years.

In 1974 I made the Rembrandt discovery hailed by The Observer as “The Rembrandt Revelation”. After 2 years of silence from the profession Hans Brill invited me to show at Impeerial College. That caused an initial flurry of enthusiasm in which I was lecturing to art students everywhere, the opposition from art historians gradually squeezed me out. Through a friend (F.Aimes Lewis) I was once invited to lecture to amateur art historians at Birkbeck. I invited myself to Harvard, (the centre of Rembrandt studies) where I was received with the utmost hostility. After that in spite of letters to all departments of art history in Britain I was never invited to present my point of view on Rembrandt (or anyone else) again.

I visited America in the hope of interesting them in my book on Rembrandt. I visited both Harvard and Yale. At Harvard I lectured to about 30 doctoral students and staff out of term time. They really did not want to hear from me inspite of the fact that my Burlington article mentions Gombrich as having helped me present the substance. He was world famous at the time. They were furious, reasonably enough as I was telling them (politely) they were wasting their time . The questions came like machine-gun fire. I was able to answer all with ease. At the wine and cheese party after, designed for further questioning, was myself and the first year student in charge of the wine. He spent our hour together trying to persuade me of my error. Afterwards at Smith I learnt that Harvard had admired my foot-work in answering the questions. In fact it was a walkover.

I gave two exhibitions at The Imperial College Consort Gallery. The first (1976) was a great success in launching my Rembrandt discoveries. Many of the museum people came and admired. Gombrich came and through his influence I was eventually published in The Burlington Magazine Feb.’77 (the top magazine of art history in Britain). A similar article was published in Rembrandthuis Kroniek (1978.1).

I wrote a book on the subject which Phaidon accepted, ‘with the whole editorial board’ behind me though they realized that it was revolutionary. They afterwards rejected it on receiving an entirely unjustified, hatchet job as a peer review. Had I been invited to defend my manuscript I could have done so with ease but I was not. My agents (Schuckberg Reynolds, who had prepared a book design) went on searching through nearly 30 publishers but word gets around there were no takers. They later became a very well thought of publisher themselves (Bloomsbury) but did not chose to run the risk of my book. I have finally put a shortened version on the internet, where it receives no real attention. As a result of this chapter I have resubmitted to Bloomsbury as they are richer than ever on the back of Harry Potter and actually advertise for my kind of book but no reply..

In my second exhibition at Imperial College I was unwise enough to exhibit a number of new discoveries including the use of mirrors by Velazquez, Vermeer, Poussin and Brunelleschi. In his speech at the opening Gombrich said “Konstam has prepared a great feast for art historians at which he invites us to eat our own words”. My invitation to the feast has failed to find a single art historian with sufficiently open mind to seek guidance. The sad truth is that one may be brave on ones own behalf but to be brave to benefit someone elses’s ideas is another thing completely. I was so far commited there was no turnng back, nor any moving forward.

. I have backed someone elses’s idea once in the washless hull affair and got some egg on my face to benefit no one. I had thought that the idea would at minimum benefit Venice. But the design based on 2 Venturi tubes plunged as soon as you accelerated. My own discoveries have proved a millstone round my neck and would have been for others I guess, the art establishment is medieval in its governance: a gambling paradise without the inconvenience of a Jockey Club to regulate it. It also takes as its prophet Heindrich Wolfflin who set it on the road to ruin with his “The Principles of Art History”. I made a video to debunk it (link) so I will limit myself here to saying that what interests artists and the general public is why some works are regarded as exceptionally great and others not. Artists particularly are interested in how great works were achieved. Art History interests itself in style but has not got a clue about that or the other more general interests. To be an expert in a sport you have to have played yourself up to a certain level, without that experience you cannot see the nuances but art historians are recruited for their word-smithery, not their visual talent.

The goal-posts moved in the early ‘60s just as I found my feet as a figurative sculptor. I had two successes a seated figure in the John Moore’s Liverpool show and a life-size standing figure in the London Group, which was given pride of place and brought Henry Moore to assess it for a prize. The prize went to a modernist in the same show, who afterwards wrote rather a good book on modern sculpture. His name was Neil Something I think. His work in the London Group was not bad but he developed badly.

So much for my beginnings; while teaching part-time at Wimbledon Art school I made an analysis of the bust of Hadrian, which came to be the foundation of my art philosophy. It was eventually published in Apollo (Aug 72). In truth I had always looked to Roman portraiture as a touchstone for quality. It’s three dimensional geometry seemed to me a much better basis for character than the Greek egg. I felt the same geometry present in the best Renaissance portraits. Yet no art historian has a good word to say for the Romans.

I am told the BM put on a show of Roman portraits in which they suggested that Hadrian had deformed ears! Years later I realized they had repaired the damage above the lobes, which constituted my best evidence of the Roman pocedure. I wrote in protest they refused to remedy what they had done. If you look very carefully you can just make out the repair by a change of colour. My museum cast has the damage but not nearly as clearly as on the original before ‘restoration !’

I joined a film club in North Kensington and we made good films of this analysis and the Rembrandt, Velasquez, Vermeer discoveries. I ran 3 “Eye Opener Courses at my London studio, which were reasonably well attended but did not take off in the way I had imagined they would. I did become a sort-after lecturer on these subjects at all the major art schools and some provincial ones for a couple of years after the Imperial College success.

Hans Brill whom I had known as the librarian at Wimbledon was promoted to librarian at the RCA and from there he was invited to arrange exhibitions at Imperial College. I think mine was the first he put on there. It was a breakthrough for me on the intellectual level but fizzled out after 2 or 3 years through the silent opposition from art historians, who obviously stand to lose a great deal if and when my revolution finally takes off. One hears that the truth will always come through in the end. I see no sign of that happening in my life-time. The Plaster conference might still prove this wrong.

I am writing 3 years after my discovery of the Roman origins of most of The Elgin Marbles, where the evidence is always available at the BM and seems to me to be not only water-tight but also very relevant to the arguments with Greece over the ownership of the marbles. The final short note in “Elgin Arguments” points out that if they were sent back to Greece the crucial difference between Greek and Roman would be obscured. Yet I have again failed to gain public notice for a discovery, which is of great importance to the hisory of art. The proper appreciation of Roman three dimensional geometry could transform the quality of art criticism which has fallen to a contemptable level from an admittedly fairly miserable level over my active life time.

I used a quote from Gombrich in my introduction to my first show at IC and invited him to the private view. He came and was obviously impressed with the evidence there. He suggested I send it to The Burlington. I told he I had and it was rejected out of hand. He invited a sub-editor to the show and they agreed it should be submitted again with Gombrich’s recommendation. It was rejected again with the same speed so he called a governors meeting and then helped me rephrase the article which was then accepted with his name attached. It was published but ignored ever since.

After my Burlington article I wrote to Harvard, the centre of Rembrandt stuies since before WWII, they were not keen to hear from me but gave me a slot out of term (paying nothing). I presented a film which told the story perfectly but quoted their Prof.Slive in a less than flattering light, I was not surprised by the reception but I thought once they had time to see that it made perfect sense at least some of the younger ones would come round, No, never. One day the world will wake up to their deceits, they have been ruining Rembrandt for no reason but to save their own faces; a day of reckoning must come.

I did a psychological tuning up course called “Insight” in 1979, more of that later (Chapter Insight) after which I was invited to show my sculpture in Madrid, Barcelona and Salamanca. These exhibitions were a great success. They occupied me for two years and by the time I got back to Britain there was no way of finding work as a teacher, lecturer or selling my sculpture there. Mrs Thatcher had done her worst; the whole climate of Britain had changed fundamentally; greed had become good. The art world in Britain was no longer civilized.

Within a year I had taken off for Italy, where I have been running The Verrocchio Arts Centre for nearly 40 years. Access to a variety of beautiful stones here led me to returned to stone carving, on which I now spend as much time as on modelling. Teaching has kept the adrenalin flowing. I still hope to educate a team of connoisseurs to keep the reform of Rembrandt studies alive when I am gone. For humanity to lose contact with the greatest humanist artist ever, has been a disaster; we see the results everywhere. So far I have attracted no students to any of the several courses I have advertized to that end. Now Covid 19 has forced a change of approach for Verrocchhio we will be floating a Community of Artists in which I will offer tuition in the hope of reviving and restoring art history.

I have had a number of uncredited victories on Rembrandt's paintings. When“The Old Man Sitting in a Chair” was de-attributed I wrote a long letter to the RRP telling them it was a mistake, 28 years later it was reported that Prof. Van der Wetering admitted “it was a vaste mistake... it is a very important painting.”( The Guardian). The second, my YouTube defence of “The Adoration of the Shepherds” seems to have prompted The National Gallery to replace it among their Rembrandts for a short time (it is now in restoration and will remain there no doubt until the disgrace is forgotten). It had been languishing in their basement since the RRP had dismissed it; inspite of the fact that the staff at the National Gallery had examined it thoroughly and found no fault. (see their ‘Rembrandt, Art in the Making) no hint it might be a dud.

I believe “The Good Samaritan” at the Wallace has also been readmitted. No move whatever to revise among the scholars of the drawings where my proofs should have convinced an open mind 40 years ago that they are grossly mistaken. Mr. Schatborn recently of the Rijksmuseum believes there are only 500 surviving drawings by Rembrandt I believe in more than 2000. My version of Rembrandt is very close to that of his contemporaries, while the scholars have neglected the historical records indeed their version contradicts them entirely. (see the Wallace ad link)

I am not an argumentative person in normal life. I tend to shy away from political or philosphical debate. I do not have the capacity to think on my feet. My brain gets there in the end but slowly. I remember looking down from a window in St. Martins at a figure striding down Charing Cross Road and thinking to myself – I would like to be like him. He was well dressed and marched like a sergent-major vigorously swinging his umbrella horizontally in a very determined manner; the very picture of aggression. He knew where he was going and he was going to get what he wanted. I need a lot more of that “backbone” as Grandma K would have called it. It has surprised me how much I have persisted in my herecies in art history when I am so ‘diplomatic’ otherwise in life.

I have surprised myself with the bulldog persistence I have mustered in my defence of Rembrandt. Its not like me. Most artists today see themselves as creators, I am a receiver. I allow the light of nature and truth to shine through me (that is the affirmation I made for myself in Insight). My art is to enhance nature’s geometry, so it lodges firmly in the human brain; I hope it festers there, fostering love for, and understanding of life on Earth. - that is my type of creativity in a nut-shell. Like Rembrandt I see anything else as worthless. I am a devoted follower of his realistic love of truth; not the scandalous modern image of him.(see Ch. Rembrandt’s Character)

As an art detective I have seen more reality than the whole tribe of art historians put together. That has kept me in the out field of debate since the beginning. I ran rings round the audience at Harvard. At Smith I heard Harvard admired my footwork as an example one student stated that in the 17th century artists did not even need to have still life in front of them. I asked how he came to that conclusion? The answer because in the 17 century they made flower paintings with flowers that we're not all in season together. NK but flowers fade, flower painters pick them one at a time. General consternation - fore Harvard scholars had clearly built an edifice on this lunacy. They had decided that it was so much more worthwhile to paint from ‘imagination’ - therefore Rembrandt must have worked in that way inspite of all the evidence to the contrary from Rembrandt’s contemporaries. Otto Benesch, who wrote the Catalogue Raisonne seems to have been responsible for this madness.

An informal but ubiquitous black-list is the only way I can account for the thoroughness with which I have been kept out of sight. The press takes advice from academe. I have yet to find the key to unlock the lock-out. Of course one does not expect to find a genius detective in a holiday art school but that turned out to be my best option for survival.

Since I wrote the above my discovery of the Roman origin of most of the Elgin Marbles has been recognised to the extent that I am advertised as one of the main speakers in a conference “which has the potential to revolutionise our understanding of Greek and Roman sculpture”. The conference is on the the use of plaster in antiquity. I am using the opportunity to speak of life-casting and the Parthenon discoveries based on damage done early to the sculptures by smoke from the chimney I recognized in 2000. It got poblished in the OJA in 2002 through the help of my friend Herbert Hoffmann. He was so well known in archaeology they could not refuse two articles we wrote jointly. The second on life casting was published in 2004. Between the two any classical archaeologist should have jumped to the conclusions that took me 15 years because they all must have known of the Carrey drawings that I saw many years later by chance; those drawings triggered my rethink. The evidence at the British Museum was overwellming.

I had no previous knowledge of the drawings made by Carrey in 1674 which showed how very much more complete the sculptures were before the Venetian bombardment of 1687. I had previously assumed that the damage to the west pediment was done by smoke. Carrey’s drawings made me realize - no, that damge was repaired by Hadrian (117 – 138). The damage we see today is the result of Venetian cannon. I have made a video which I am confident demonstrates all the evidence for my wicked theories and goes some way to reconcilling archaeologists to their follies. I am less confident that they will prove sufficently humble to accept the obvious truth. It shows them in a very bad light over the centuries and up to the present. They not only overlooked the evidence of an enormous chimney in the area of the acropolis where archaeological activity is concentrated, they utterly refused to attend to the evidence when it was pointed out by a mere sculptor, actually a sculptor with a long history of discoveries behind him of corrections to art history.

The fundamental error of art history is to presume that artists of the passed were so much more able than those we know. I continue to presume the opposite, that they were very similar in ability. Many of my contemperaries at the RCA were very capable; if they have left no impression that is because society was looking the other way – the Serota way. More on this theme in the chapter on talent.

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