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First one must understand that the anonymous reader, let us suppose he was male, belonged to a team, one might say an army, of Rembrandt scholars whom I had just criticized to the extent as to demolish their expertise and possibly their livelihood with it. I had published with Prof. Gombrich’s help an article in The Burlington Magazine that did just that - politely. There were only shreds left of their previously esteemed work. I understand their dilemma because in a way I was defending my own beliefs about Rembrandt against their attack. Up until the report I had only received one half-valid criticism:– that the mirrors I needed if I insisted on live models (I do) would have to be 8 ft across and plate glass did not exist in Rembrandt’s life time - but this is easily answered by the fact that composite mirrors certainly did. Rembrandt drew less well and with less enthusiasm from a reflection than from life direct. He seemed to do it in several cases of two separate drawings in the hope that the reflected one might generate new ideas later.

The readers report was so packed with details that can best be answered by reading the book. I will only answer the chief point that some may feel deserved answering, I never felt it was.

The reader and I come to Rembrandt drawings from so different backgrounds it is easy for him who has probably spent most of his adult life reading the literature and pondering over the original drawings with a magnifying glass to accuse me of a “narrow focus”. I freely admit that my sources of information were very limited -1. Otto Benesch’s 6 volume catalogue of 1954 and 2. Seymor Slive’s two Dover paperback volumes of drawings believed to be by Rembrandt in 1904 but Prof. Slive (of Harvard) had written underneath the reproductions his reasons for disapproving of a good number. It was a growing sense of amazement that drove me to enquire what had gone wrong. In fact Rembrandt scholars believe that he drew his biblical subjects from imagination. I believe Rembrandt’s contemporaries, who tell us “that he would not attempt a single brushstroke without a living model before his eyes” and several more similar statements.

My strength is that I was trained as a sculptor draughtsman not as an art historian. Very soon in that training I came to regard Rembrandt as the best example of draughtsmanship for sculptors. Why did I choose Rembrandt instead of Michelangelo, Bernini or Flaxman? - because Rembrandt seemed infinitely more aware of the power of three-dimensional gesture and juxtaposition to convey human meaning than the others. Artist in the 20th century became more aware of the importance of space and I was one of them. I hugely admire Bernini's Santa Teresa sculpture for its power in conveying ecstasy but as a draftsman I have not come across any equivalent in his drawings where Rembrandt is capable of finding a very wide variety of feeling in the space relationships and gestures of his actors. It is interesting to note that Rembrandt in his early years in Amsterdam produced a good number of drawings of actors both individually and complete scenes from the theatre. I guess this must have alerted him to the usefulness of theatrical production, which he then reproduced in his own studio. With live actors it is so easy to experiment with gesture and space relationships.

We are dealing with the difference between myself, a dyslexic whose input is strongly visual rather than verbal and an army of scholars selected because of their verbal skills who may have been drawn towards art history by its cultural importance but have probably never practised it other than as amateurs. It is generally agreed that to achieve a professional level of competence as a musician or artist you need to put in about 10,000 hours of practice. Naturally this will vary according to the level of natural talent for the chosen skill but by the age of 42 when I discovered Rembrandt’s use of models and mirrors I had put in twice that number of hours at my sculpture and a good deal of study in a more casual way of art generally in the galleries of Europe and through reproductions. Naturally this had bred in me a confidence in my own judgement. An artist is working towards a goal and my goal had been mostly to follow Rembrandt. So I had good reason to believe that I was more in tune with his thoughts than the experts. As I leafed through the new Dover paperbacks of the drawings I asked myself the question for the first time - were these drawn from life? I answered that question with a resounding ‘Yes” when I came upon the two drawings of a beheading. They were drawn from two different angles and the group was complicated, three figures and a corpse. The two drawings fitted spatially to a degree that I challenge anyone to reproduce from imagination. I guess it would be impossible. This question proved crucial; it is the great divide between the experts and myself; they believe they were drawn from imagination. Before buying the paperbacks my only source of Rembrandt drawings had been Benesch’s “Selected Drawings” I do not think I ever read his introduction. I had thought to myself if they are selected they must be the best. I was wrong; Benesch had discarded several drawings that I regard as Rembrandt’s greatest masterpieces not because they are perfect but because they tell us clearly where his true interests lie: that is in communicating feeling through body language. I can see why Benesch discarded them, they contain a lot of second thoughts which make them all the more interesting but definitely not what a professional illustrator would send to the publisher. They are works in progress. Most of Rembrandt’s output as a draughtsman should be treated as such. The broad technique of his later paintings also seem to invite further thought.

Benesch claimed he could date Rembrandt's drawings by style to within 1 or 2 years, three at most. My article and this book being criticized proved this to be a colossal error. An error that is maintained by the experts to this day in spite of the overwhelming evidence I have accumulated and that of Rembrandt’s contemporaries to the contrary. As the advertisement to my lecture at the Wallace Collection claims ““Konstam’s discoveries have proved surprisingly controversial considering that they agree entirely with the documentary evidence of of Rembrandt’s own contemporaries and earlier connoisseurship. They are clear and obvious to the layman observer. It is today’s scholars that are out of step.

To deal with “the most disturbing example” from the report – two drawings B.524 and B.916 both of The Dismissal of Hagar (link to video) Konstam suggests that they should not be dated 1640 and 1652 by Benesch (a pair direct from life with its mirror image drawing) but were drawn “at a single session, from living models.”

Looking back on my statement I must admit that there is no way I can prove the “single session” though I do point out that Hagar was clearly fading with exhaustion in the B.916. My point was that they were drawn from the same group but with different pens; perhaps days or months apart but not 12 years. (One day forensic science might be able to show the ink was the same in both.) The reader then goes on to point out that the figure of Abraham in B.542 was in fact drawn on a “separate piece of paper stuck to the main sheet” implying that this figure was parachuted in from Rembrandt’s imagination. In truth I had not noticed the separate addition though it was just visible in the reproduction . It makes absolutely no difference to my argument. I was aware that Rembrandt used this firmer method of erasure when a wash had failed; there is nothing else one can do drawing with ink. There is no reason why Abraham should not have been re-observed on the new surface, from the live group, which I have no doubt was present in Rembrandt’s studio for months as some of his students made large elaborate paintings from the same group.

If this was his chief complaint I hope you can see how trivial and inconsequential the rest were. (If anyone wants more defences I will supply them.) Nonetheless, this hatchet job was sufficient to prevent the book ever being published by anyone, though it had already been not only accepted by Phaidon,"with the whole editorial board's backing” but the book design was ready.