Sidebar Menu

I stumbled into opposition to Rembrandt scholarship. I had been a devotee of Rembrandt for at least 10 years. I was teaching drawing at Wimbledon Art School and was asked to give a talk on Rembrandt. Up to that point I had just looked at the pictures in my one book “Rembrandt, The Selected Drawings” by Benesch but never bothered with the text. With this new assignment I felt I better check him out more thoroughly and bought the two Dover paperbacks which reproduce from old plates made in 1904 works which were then attributed to Rembrandt.

I was lying in bed with flu’ when I first opened the Dover books and therefore had all the time in the world to contemplate what was written immediately beneath the pictures. As I turned the pages reading Professor Slive’s comments I became more and more astonished, he seem to be dismissing masterpieces according to my perception; many of them masterpieces I had never seen before because they did not appear in the Selected Drawings but most do appear in Benesch’s 6 volume Catalogue.

I knew for certain that something had gone wrong and for the first time asked myself whether these gorgeous drawings were drawn from life? I answered that question with a resounding “yes” when I came across two drawings of an execution which had been drawn from the same group of models but from different view points. Years later I modelled the group to demonstrate this to others; at the time it seemed to me so obvious a model was unnecessary. When I made the model I was astonished how very accurately the two tied together. There were three figures - the executioner and two victims. One of the drawings also contained the same three men walking towards the place of execution, as well as the execution itself. There was also a corpse which remained exactly where it was in both drawings, quite impossible from normal imagination.
(ill 2 drawings)

Given that Rembrandt was clearly using three models at a time equipped with sword, holster, bandolero and the executioner was also easily recognisable by his curly hair and beard. I started to produce my first maquette based on a drawing that had been deattributed but to me screamed Rembrandt, and at his very best. I expected to be able to walk around the three-dimensional group and then see the subject matter of several other drawings (see YouTube BBC ). That was not the case; almost the reverse was true. I tried putting in a mirror and EURIKA! I had found the solution to the mistake. It was months later at the Cortauld’s Witt Library that I discovered Rembrandt simple use of mirrors where reality and reflection are seen together in one drawing. I found 80 examples in one afternoon.

This was the second important discovery I made. Since then I have made several that would have made the name of any art historian but coming from a sculptor they are an embarrassment and have been resisted with Trumpian determination by the professionals. My most important discovery is now only 3 years old and it overturns much art historical professional opinion since Winckelmann. The sculptures they have most admired among the Elgin Marbles turns out to be Roman not Greek. The level of proof in this case is obvious to the layman because it does not rely wholely on style. One only needs to know where the smoke came from and when, to understand why the Roman exists among the Greek: The Greek original is smoke-damaged; the clean marble is Roman. The only grey area is the metopes and frieze where the sculpture was protected from the rain; so I have not ventured an opinion except on the pediments where anyone can see what I am talking about. The sheer sophistication of the south frieze leads me to the suspicion it also is Roman.

The wide variety of quality is explained by a 570 year gap in which the technology of steel and that of copying sculpture both expanded considerably. Hardly surprising therefore, but embarassing to those hodwinked for centuries. They were warned by Richard Payne Knight, a trusted connoisseur, at the time Elgin was selling his collection but the undoubted fact these sculptures came off the Parthenon seemed to outweigh the evidence of style, furthermore, Payne Knight did not distinguish between the genuine Phidian east pediment and the Roman west pediment.

The embarrassment is redoubled by the indisputable fact that the Roman is superior to the Greek and its superiority has been recognised as such by connoisseurs ever since. But those same connoisseurs have insisted that Greek sculpture is vastly superior to the Roman! This is why I insist that the recognition of Rome’s contribution to the history of art is an essential first step to improving connoisseurship; an art that is, by general consent, in steep decline.

At the age of 87 I feel the need to put on record how the art establishment has rejected my solution to an unrecognised problem and jeopardised my career as an art detective. Here follows a chronology of disappointments in art history.

I have had a reasonably enjoyable and successful life as a sculptor and entrepreneur but in art history I feel I've been robbed of a deserved reputation by the establishment. My lack of real success as a sculptor can be accounted for by the fact that the art establishment has been looking the other way all my adult life, it is not necessarily part of a conspiracy against me in particular, all figurative artists have suffered similar treatment..

I see huge swathes of art history as an accumulation of myth and prejudice. Three of the criticisms of professional performance are of major importance: the “Elgin Arguments” which argues in favour of seeing the sculptures in the British Museum largely as Roman restorations and improvements, the second is fundamental flaws in the present scholarship of Rembrandt's drawings, and the third is the need to acknowledge the pervasive influence of Roman three-dimensional geometry in European drawing and painting. Present criticism is strongly biased towards Greek art. My discoveries at the British Museum show that the Roman restorations have long been preferred to the Greek originals! I have also found three other artists of great repute – Velazquez, Vermeer, and Brunelleschi using mirrors in the works that have made their reputation, which naturally helps one to accept that Rembrandt also used mirrors. None of these are recognised by the establishment.(see Youtube)

I write my gripes in full for the purpose of pushing reform in art history. It is difficult not to sound paranoid. Given the number and importance of my discoveries it seems impossible to account for the fact that I am not better known, published, used and rewarded without believing in a plot. A plot is very easy to understand; Art historians have ample reason to suppress me. All my discoveries are something that could and should have been spotted by them long ago. Taken together my discoveries simply pull the red carpet from under them and make them look foolish if not dishonest.

Their willingness to attribute miracles to artists of the distant passed is the foundation stone of why they have left so much to me to rediscover. I am simply pointing to practical explanations for their miracles There may be many more failures out there for someone else to find.

Art historians are a comparatively new breed. 100 years ago there was not such a thing as a department of Art History in universities. Art history was written by individual amateur connoisseurs such as Roger de Piles or Ruskin who did very well, or by artists like Vasari or Reynolds. Now we have a band of miss-trained professionals whose livelihood depends on their standing within the profession and the shaky standing of the profession itself in the outer world. Nonetheless, every university or art school of any size boasts an Art History department, with large staff and however much they may hate each other they naturally unite against such a critical intruder as myself. They really need to start again from scratch. I offer tuition.

Art historians come to art as viewers not as practitioners, nor do they hurry to close the gap that separates them from artists. Art History and Art Depts hardly speak to one another. Art History has become a powerful, autonomous body which has proved very dangerous but important to the practitioners. They rule the roost by holding the purse strings, sitting on all the rewards artists might receive. From the Turner prize alone we can see the results are catastrophic for visual culture. Who can believe that the fortune spent on museum purchases in the last 50 years can sustain their value in future? Reputation today depends on how much hype your dealer can generate.

A work of art is designed to have a certain effect on the viewer. Artists will want to see how that effect is brought about. An art historian seems only interested in its style, in order to establish who painted it. The proven fact that their idea of Rembrandt's style is fictitious nonsense is embarrassing for them but also disastrous for artists who used to revere Rembrandt and were naturally educated by his priorities. I am such an artist. In truth I feel that the art promoted in my life-time is a travesty, anti civilised, and inhumane. I mainly blame the art historical establishment for this, artists must take some responsibility also. I do not hate them, I even sympathise with their predicament but I do want to reform them.


My first discovery was the three D geometry demonstrated in the analysis of Hadrian. All my other discoveries stem from this. As far as I am aware the art historians have not seen the importance of this. The British Museum put on a dull show of Roman portraits and another of Hadrian that could have been enlivened by my film or photos. Apparently the Hadrian show suggested that he had deformed ears! I did not see it myself. I have since realised that the British Museum has actually repaired the damage done by an over confident carver to Hadrian’s ears which was the best proof of my theory. I asked them to undo the repair they refused. If you look very carefully just above the ear lobes you can still just see how the museum have disguised an important clue to Roman carving procedures.

Nor have I ever seen any reference to the Roman tradition which is the tradition behind the better half of western art - think of Masaccio, Mantegna, Holbein, Rembrandt, Degas, Van Gogh and Giacometti to mention only the most obvious.

My next discovery was Rembrandt’s use of mirrors, where the evidence is overwhelming that Rembrandt scholarship had gone astray for 100 years. My first article was dismissed by the BM Rembrandt expert (CW) with “It would be very important if he could prove it.” It was proven then and proven now beyond reasonable doubt. Andrew Wilton, then a member of the Print Room staff, helped me write it up for art historians. My wife Janet had already done a good job editorially.

It is impossible that the number of relationships that I have pointed out could have occurred without a 3D tableau and a mirror, before computers. I submitted an article edited by his colleague at the BM (A.W) to the Burlington Mag. It was rejected out of hand. The Observer headed a long article about my discovery “The Rembrandt Revelation”. The idea was that Rembrandt scholars would refute the claim and I would answer with a colour supplement. But experts do not answer criticism – its too dangerous - so no colour supplement and all is forgotten.

A year later I put on a show at Imperial College in which I put in my Rembrandt work as well as my sculpture. It was an intellectual triumph – well reviewed in the NY Herald Tribune and many letters of congratulation.ETC…(link to eminent supporters)

Gombrich and Montagu came to my aid and an article was eventually published in the Burlington Magazine (Feb.’77). The editor (Benedict Nicolson) wrote “The scholars must now get down to revising the whole corpus of drawings” actually rather more than that because they need to revise their very negative view of his personality! But nothing has happened in that direction, rather the reverse. The situation has worsened considerably.

The British Museum put out a new catalogue of its holdings of Rembrandt drawings which referred to my “ingenious theory” and made several references to undermine it; lining up four other colleagues to bolster the case for dismissing it. None of it more than the opinion of various ‘experts’. The only half good reason for rejecting the facts I point out is that glass mirrors were not big enough during Rembrandt’s lifetime, undoubtedly true. But what about polished metal reflectors or glass mirrors made up of many pieces, which can give a reflection good enough. Particularly as Rembrandt’s drawings from reflections were always inferior to those directly from life (see YouTube front and back view of woman in North Holland dress link).

I made a film with the BBC which was a hit. I was recognised and congratulated by petrol-pump attendants but ignored by the experts.
(the video on YouTube uses extracts -link)

I was invited to write something for Rembrandthuiskroniek. I introduced a few more examples to the augment my Burlington Magazine article but Schatborn who was the Rijksmuseum expert was to translate it into Dutch resisted anything new, nothing was added. I got so angry I was prepared to go and thump on the desk of the director of The Rijksmuseum. I did not because he relented somewhat. It was handsomely printed and made a stir in Holland. (I heard from a friend who was shown it with great enthusiasm by an ophthalmologist colleague) but it did not dent the confidence of the scholars, who have gone on destroying Rembrandt with the same arguments as before. Always refusing to listen let alone discuss..

I lectured at Harvard, not in term time, but at least 30 professors and doctoral students were present. They were furious and only the first year student in charge of the wine and I attended the party intended for further questioning. I heard afterwards at Smith that they admired my footwork in answering questions. (I had made mincemeat of them)

I gave a second exhibition at Imperial College in which I unwisely showed how Poussin, Vermeer, Velasquez and even Masaccio used mirrors. Gombrich opened the show and said “Konstam has prepared a great feast for art historians at which he invites us to eat our own words”. The show was all together to much for the experts to swallow. I sold nothing, received no letters of congratulation or reviews but was whisked away to Spain by a Spanish scientist patron.

I had a great time in Spain, gave 3 exhibitions there, did portraits of the King & Queen and other dignitaries. I sold half my life's work and was promised exhibitions in Paris and NY and a generous stipend to prepare for them, these later promises never materialised ; my patron could cure rats of cancer in the lab but his compound proved ineffective for humans. His Niagara of money was turned off. He was bankrupt.

I returned to UK with very little to show for my Spanish triumph and to find that my “international” reputation had no currency whatever there. I had lost all the teaching which had previously supported me so I determined to start a new life far from Rembrandt and from the big art world. The Centro d'Arte Verrocchio kept me busy for the next 15 years. I was tempted back into the fray by a series of three exhibitions in Berlin, Amsterdam and London devoted to “Rembrandt and his Workshop”. The workshop was a new invention to account for all the paintings that have been dismissed. The evidence for it is so thin no one should have fallen for it but art experts profit from much too much uncritical and undeserved confidence.

My Rembrandt book was rejected by 30 publishers though Phaidon had accepted it at first “with the whole editorial board behind me”. The first edition of my Sculpture book was a modest success. (8000 copies sold). But the second edition with the Riace Bronze supplement was no longer recommended by the Open University and has hardly sold at all. I wrote to all departments of art history but no positive replies.

In 2001 I made my second series of discoveries in Greece. Perhaps even more important and revolutionary than the Rembrandt ones. Same story over again. Two papers published in the OJA but neglected by all the experts. My second edition of Sculpture the Art and the Practice with all the details of the Greek discoveries sold very badly. No bites from archaeologists after my recent “Elgin Arguments” campaign. The pamphlet was directed towards them and all the TV names I could think of: no response at all.

Fortunately I had my teaching and practical work here to divert me, otherwise I would certainly have gone mad, It is a constant sorrow to me that I will not leave behind a band of disciples to hand on my vision and artistic philosophy. Maybe that will happen in the last quarter of my life but I have not much hope. The evidence suggests that there is a black mark against my name that forestalls any positive help from the media.

Evidence for black mark
1. The BM catalogue of Rembrandt drawings 4 experts lined up to put NK down
2.”Vermeer's Camera” by Steadman a note on NK - (page 196 “a tortuous argument indeed”) because I had suggested a solution to a problem he could not solve. I had solved it 20 years earlier with an article in “The Artist” magazine which appears in his biblography. The argument was quite straightforward not tortuus.
3. A visit from BBC’s searching for stories relating to the collection of the BM. It so happens that they have a wonderful collection of Rembrandt drawings some of which I had used as examples. Hadrian is also in the BM. When the man Amore? saw my work he was very excited. He told me that in 3 months of search these were the only discoveries he had unearthed. He had 12 slots at his disposal! He returned to the BBC never to be heard of again. I wrote, I phoned - no response at all. This was before the Parthenon discoveries.
4. Students have tried on my behalf but NK is always put down with a firm hand.
5. May 2018 it would seem the same is happening with my “Elgin Arguments” the 3rd instalment of Greek discoveries which demonstrates beyond reasonable doubt that the better half of the Elgin Marbles are in fact Roman replacements for the originals which had been ruined by nearly 600 years of smoke pollution. The evidence is available to the untutored eye at the BM.

There could be a change of luck for me from the Plaster Conference at the British Academy rescheduled for the end of March 2021 but it looks as if the coronavirus will spoil that also. I have made a new video which will survive to tell the tale.(link) But the thing that has surprised me is that my extensive presence on YouTube with Rembrandt has aroused no interest from the general public. I, like everyone else, used to assume that the experts knew what they were talking about, their standing protects them from harm. Nobody wants a revolution, it is very inconvenient and means a lot of extra work. When one reads a bad review one subconsciously says - good, I don’t have to bother with that then. This has happened to all my discoveries. It is hard to survive against such opposition.

I published a fuller account of all this in the “Information Ethics”(fall 2015) in honour of Gordon Moran who had just died “Barriers to Academic Discussion”. Gordon had recommended me, he also made an amusing speech at my 75 birthday party. He had suffered in the same way over The Guido Riccio fresco in Siena and so understood the problems I face.

Next Chapter