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The story of art has been told in two main ways with two different emphases. The first, the movement of civilisations, as they ascend and decay and the second the arising of individual genius who push forward mankind’s ability to perceive. Both are valid but the balance of the separate myths has, in my view, got out of hand recently, with too much emphasis on the adulation of individual artist’s novelty and two little thought of the effect that novelty has on our civilisation, whether it weakens or strengthens it. Novelty is not the same as originality.

The second way of telling that story is through the leaps forward of a series of geniuses of which Phidias is a prime example, the Parthenon sculptures being his only certain works, yet there is considerable uncertainty about the Parthenon sculptures as they exist today. I have provided convincing evidence that the better half of the Elgin Marbles (in The British Museum taken from the Parthenon by Lord Elgin) are Roman restorations of about 570 years later. Furthermore when I say the better half I mean aesthetically superior as well as numerically and by a good margin. We cannot put a name for certain to the sculptors at Olympia - Phidias may have played a part but for sure they precede the Parthenon and certainly represents the beginning of that mighty leap forward that took place about 480 BC rather than in 438 BC, when we know Phidias started work on the Parthenon.

More recently, in better documented times we have produced a series of art heroes:- Giotto, Brunelleschi, Piero della Francesca, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Rembrandt. But as we get closer to modern times the consensus view becomes less certain. I, for instance, would put Rembrandt, who I see as the herald of the modern era, well ahead of Michelangelo who might be seen as the last major contributor to the Christian era. His major works inspire in me neither awe nor a sense of common humanity, he is not a part of my personal tradition. I look to Donatello, Verrocchio and Rembrandt as developers of the ‘true eye’ which I pursue in preference to ‘ideal beauty’ which leads its followers to close their eyes to the majority of experience: the average life-model needs a lot of reworking to conform to the ideal. Anyway, do we not long for something more exotic than ideal beauty?

The Greeks claimed to create their ideal by taking the best parts from different individuals; viewed through the lens of life-casting, which I point to as the propellant of the Greek ‘miracle’ that claim may come as an additional shock to received wisdom. What I am saying is contrary to standard belief Roman art represents a superior quality of perception to the Greek. Not so surprising as I believe the Roman restorations where made 570 years later with better tools and technique. I believe that Phidias's great reputation is wrongly based on this later Roman contribution.

On the other hand the Greek ability to put volumes together harmoniously has left a permanent stamp on our perception and is quite enough to uphold their preeminence in the history of art regardless of the fact they used life-casting, which I believe I have proven. The Greeks at Olympia represent a sudden upward leap in the graph of the advance of art that is indelible, regardless of their use of life-casting as a means to their masterworks.

The lone figure of Rembrandt represents another equally important change of direction in perception – a move towards seeing life whole. The Buddha advised “see life as it is and not as we might wish it to be”. We could see Rembrandt as merely a gifted follower of Caravaggio but his gift for observing how we humans express our inner life in the physical world is unique and for me, the most important advance in our perception ever made.

Rembrandt said ‘a picture is finished when the artist has realised his intention in it’ and clearly for him this parring down to the essence was a matter of the utmost importance. Many complained that his pictures were badly finished, but this was perhaps because Rembrandt did not wish to distract his audience with unnecessary detail. He simplified nature to get his message across, this is an important part of his genius but it is overlooked by recent Rembrandt scholars, who insist on seeing their subject through style blinkers of their own devising that has left the historical Rembrandt a distant memory.

The great tradition of Rembrandt: that of truthful observation, has been submerged also in the deluge of art since 1900. I wish it were otherwise, I work to re-establish Rembrandt’s priorities but Rembrandt's scholars with their very different story, are standing in my way. Seeing truly is important; if we could see our position in the world truly we might possibly be in time to save ourselves from extinction.