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If there are lessons for art historians to learn from the Rembrandt debacle, the first lesson must be that one should study the drawings in order to come to an understanding of Rembrandt's character and second to study the comments of his contemporaries.

Rembrandt is the most transparent artist I know. What he proclaimed as his credo, the commentaries of his contemporaries and what we find in the drawings all add up to one obsessively truthful, artist. One who proclaimed that he drew from nature (life) and ‘anything else (invention) was worthless in his eyes’. He could not have been clearer, yet because this credo directly contradicts the apparent credo of our times: the more an artist differs from nature the more ‘creative’ that artist is, Rembrandt’s true gift to us has been excised.

Rembrandt specialists have subconsciously determined to convert him to our temporary beliefs. Naturally they have had to dispense with at least half of his genuine works to bring about that transformation. This book is designed to demonstrate the real Rembrandt, who was very much a part of his time. He was born into the middle of the revolution in science which started with Copernicus and Galileo. A revolution based on the rejection of the hypothetical philosophy inherited from the Greeks, (Aristotle in particular) and relied instead on careful observation, measurement and logical deduction from the data. Rembrandt embodies the same spirit in art.

It is very easy to understand the dilemma of the experts under the circumstances. It is very hard to accept that one is no longer an expert after years of study, not to mention a lifetime of good fees for your opinions now suddenly valueless. The third lesson, most important of all; art historians must learn to listen to criticism instead of closing ranks against it.

I wrote a book soon after my article published in the Burlington magazine (February 1977) in which I gave a much fuller account of my findings. It was accepted by Phaidon until an outrageous reader’s report came from a Rembrandt specialist. Phaidon immediately dropped the project nor could another publisher be found with the courage to see it through. It must have been read by many other specialists in my agent’s search for another publisher.

Little has changed since then except that accepted Rembrandt scholarship has got steadily worse. I have never stopped trying to publicise my work but when one swims against the current of fashion and scholarship it is extremely difficult to get ones voice heard. After considerable initial enthusiasm for my insights into the artistic character of the artist that I most admire, it became obvious to all that my work rendered the establishment view obsolete, and they were having none of that.

Having demonstrated Rembrandt’s use of mirrors it is fairly easy to recognise other examples. The fact that it took three hundred years to recognise the pattern of a mirror images suggests that they are not that obvious. The significance of them is that they prove, beyond reasonable doubt that Rembrandt made tableaux vivent to work from. The most cursory glance at the commentaries of Rembrandt contemporaries should have made such a proof unnecessary but the vast body of Rembrandt scholars had all chosen to ignore that testimony. Furthermore, they have refused to accept my proof. On May twentieth 2011 I had the opportunity to confront the leading Rembrandt expert; Professor Ernst van de Wetering, in front of an audience on his own territory, the paintings. My account of that meeting can be seen in my blog ‘Triumph of Truth’.

Apart from the breakthrough in Rembrandt studies that should flow from that meeting mankind would be wise to focus on the enormous amount of misinformation that took place in the many years between my discovery and its acceptance. During those years I have done everything possible for an individual to bring those facts to the attention of the media but to no avail.

It is wholly understandable, if not wholly noble that as a body, Rembrandt scholars decided to resist by all possible means, in spite of my vastly superior evidence. That resistance has succeeded up until now. The experts have a great deal more fire-power than an individual can possibly muster. Their babble can drown out the obvious truth. The watch dogs of the press and other media stood back and watched the blanking out of the ‘revelation’ described in The Observer and was soon forgotten.

I identify very much with Tom Wolf’s hero of ‘Bonfire of the Vanities’ or the ancient mariner. I had to start my own school to find a captive audience who would listen to my tale.

I became the mirror crank, and it is true that once I appreciated the usefulness of mirrors to a painter I did see more of them. Since the Rembrandt discovery I have found Velásquez, Vermeer and Brunelleschi also using mirrors to much greater advantage than Rembrandt gained. It is important to realise, from the beginning the difference between a print or cartoon reversal, (as used by Piero della Francesca and many others) and a mirror image: a mirror image must start from a three dimensional reality as it is a reversal of a different point of view. I guess it was the development of internet that contributed to my final victory. The courage of the Bembooms in hosting that party must never be forgotten.

Art History has been left in the hands of those whose only competence is in covering up their mistakes and blocking outside criticism. The history of art belongs to us all; first to artists and second to the world at large: yet living artist are rarely if ever consulted on cultural matters. More often they are treated with disdain by the professionals. Art prizes and prestigious shows are controlled almost exclusively by art historians or critics with no more understanding than them. In art the tail is wagging the dog. If the critics did well and honestly that might just be tolerable but they have not done well. Artists have not been good at governing their own affairs but they could hardly have done worse than the ‘experts’, who have guided artists into the steepest ever decline in standards over the last hundred years.

Is music ruled by musicologists? Theatre by theatrical historians? Dance, literature etc. by other than the artist themselves? No, it is as if we left the management of Formula One in the hands of those who had studied The Highway Code but not study engineering or learned to drive.

E Reader’s Note

This book is essentially the same as that which was first accepted by Phaidon Press and then rejected after a vile report from an anonymous scholar reader. Word got around and no other publisher would touch it. Understandably they were more impressed by the bile my revolution provokes from the establishment than the truths it contains.

I have simply brought that book up to date with a few minor adjustments to adapt it to electronic format. I have inserted links to YouTube that will short cut many of the long winded explanations needed to find the right part of each illustration. YouTube has the advantage of colour and clarity and painlessly directs your eye where needed; the links are therefore strongly recommended. (You will need access to the internet as you read.)

A list of the original illustrations can be found here.

I have maintained the rather scholarly style for those with professional interests in the subject because I still dream of converting them. The new opportunities for the aspiring young are unparalleled. Rembrandt scholarship needs to start over again. It is a disaster area.


Bastien Gomperts, a research bio-chemist first told me I had discovered a new key to Rembrandt and that I should write it up. My wife Janet helped me to do so. Andrew Wilton polished the article and showed it to his colleague at the British Museum, Christopher White, who said it would be very important if I could prove it. I sent it to the Burlington thinking I had proved my point, it was not accepted.

Hans Brill invited me to put on a show at Imperial College called A Sculptor’s Perspective. I wrote an Introduction which started with a quote from Ernst Gombrich (quoting Ranke). I invited him to the private view, he came and the next day invited a sub-editor of The Burlington to join us at the show. He was quickly convinced that my article should be resubmittted. It was again rejected. Gombrich called a governors’ meeting and it was agreed that Gombrich should help revise the article for the Burlington. Both he and Jennifer Montagu helped me and it was published in the February issue 1977.

I would like to thank all those who helped and supported my findings for this first article and particularly Stephan and Laura Cohn who for weekend after weekend edited the first version of this book and Nancy G. Telfer for editing the script for this second version. Alaya Sinclair filmed and Hannah Toomer edited the films. Sam Toomer composed the e-book.

Next Chapter: Author's Note