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Nigel Konstam at Verrocchio in Winter

Nigel Konstam is a sculptor, who has two permanent museums of his work. He has made important discoveries in the field of Art History, see video section and the Verrocchio website. Now in his 80th year, he is very keen to train a team of competent critics determined to put right the fundamental errors which persist in many areas of Art History. (see particularly Save Rembrandt)

If a minimum of three students can be found willing to take on this responsibility he will run a course in connoisseurship that could also serve as a master-class in painting or sculpture. He has written:- the last para could stand alone.

Art historians see art from the consumer’s angle, not from the makers’. They construct ideas around an image that may help others to see or feel more in art but those ideas may have very little to do with the artist’s motive or method in making the image in the first place.

As one who has spent a life-time sculpting, teaching drawing and painting, I have watched the art which gets public notice change radically as a result of the opinions of the critics with a consumer oriented mind set and who have lost the know how to look at figurative art.

Before our era artists were trying to express themselves in human terms. Their primary subject matter was life on Earth and particularly the life of other human beings. A “history painter” was the most prestigious painter because he dealt with human affairs most directly.

Rembrandt obviously loved his native landscape but the huge majority of his output was devoted to the study of his fellow humans. One has to rack ones brains to find a major artist of the past for whom one would not say the same. Naturally there were abstract artists working in textiles or designing furniture or other utensils at the same time but the fine arts concerned themselves primarily with the study of man.

Before the photograph artist were mainly concerned with giving us an accurate picture of the world. You do not have to draw from nature for long before you realise that we do not have an accurate picture of the world in our heads. One has to learn to see. The Egyptians painted the walls of the pharaohs’ tombs for more than 3000 years without noticing foreshortening.

The history of art since then confirms how very slow we are to take account of other aspects of vision, such as light and shade, the true colour of shadows, the colour changes in hair, velvet, fur, or flesh. The look of a glass of wine, the appearances of water. The full appreciation of these aspects of creation through these slow-growing discernments are victories of the eye of the artist over the abstract idea in all our heads. These may seem small victories compared with the way Rembrandt first brought to our notice how the body expresses our inner thoughts and feelings. The reading of ‘body language’ is a major advance in our understanding of each other.

These art victories could not have come about through the use of the camera. They are the result of critically examining the process of seeing. They are important victories in the development of man. Sadly this critical examination of vision is no longer in fashion. It still goes on but it is no longer noticed by the media. The critics of art are much more interested in the latest novelty. Innovation is necessary but novelty needs to be questioned as to whether it is useful or not. Most art novelties are here today and gone tomorrow because they have no bearing on life. Few art critics have any notion of how what we see gets distorted in the abstracting brain of man. How could they, they do not draw.

Art has been a crucial method of developing feeling for the subtleties of nature. The camera can never substitute for this business of questioning our perceptions.

There is another reason why art history has to be written again for artists. Art historians tend to mythologise. They hate to acknowledge the use of mechanical aids which even the greatest artists use occasionally to save work. This is an area in which I believe myself to be uniquely well qualified as during my life I have uncovered many artists’ secrets. I have a little museum full of them. David Hockney, another artist, has done great work in trying to rewrite art history in the same direction.

Experience has shown that a new history of art has to be written for the makers. What we know as art history today is on a different track altogether. It has success with the consumers but has wrought havoc with art itself. Visit any museum of modern art to see for yourselves.

Art for artists is about our own development. If some of that developing sensibility is conveyed to others so much the better. Technology may speed ahead but our roots are still in the cave.

The driving force for most artists is to bring to the notice of our contemporaries those elements in the art of the past which seem most relevant to us today. For instance I wrote of my Crouching Figure, ‘I want to remake Rodin in the clear formal style of Brancusi and the Constructivists’. I see in the best of Rodin a wonderful sense of three dimensional structure, which I feel others fail to see and I want them to see. I stopped the model in that instant as she climbed to her feet because the pose rang bells for me. It reminded me of Rodin. My interpretation is more austerely abstracted. Like many creative works it contains an extension of another’s ideas. I still regard this homage to Rodin as one of my best works.

If life is to be fully realised innovation needs to be balanced against stability, continuity and tradition. The present admiration for novelty for its own sake is deeply destructive of human values and the life of the community of artists through history, this sense of historic community has sustained my creative work in sculpture and art history. Both areas have proved fertile.

The winter course will consist of not more than 3 hours of theory per day, the rest will be practical.