Paul Clemen

In the early 1900s also, Paul Clemen, the Conservator of Rhineland since 1893, wrote articles about Ruskin and the English conser vation movement. He recognized the importance of the English influence, especially in the treatment of ruins. He referred to Ruskin as 'the most severe, the most eloquent, and the most influential opponent of the restoration of historic buildings', and to William Morris as his most enthusiastic prophet. He appreciated especially the second chapter of the Seven Lamps with its call for truth in architecture, and the condemnation of hypocrisy (Clemen, 1900:17). He was, however, critical about Ruskin's general approach. This, he observed, always deduced everything from ethical concepts creating confusion and a lack of balance in the basic concepts as regards the artistic and technical aspects. For a historian, Ruskin lacked objectivity in accepting only a brief historic period, and missing 'the great cleaning bath of Greek art'. But the key to understanding Ruskin was in his development as a youth; 'he has the freshness and the originality, but also the crooked one-sidedness of a self-educated person' (Clemen, 1900:32). Clemen agreed that modern repair methods put the picturesqueness and the appeal of a historic building at risk. He preferred renewal of small bits at a time, and argued that conservation of monuments, die Denkmalpflege, should aim at the next century - not the next decade.

He admired the masterly skill of Viollet-le-Duc in the restoration of Notre-Dame of Paris, where one was made to forget how much there was completely new - despite much hardness, especially in sculptures and ornaments. He appreciated the care Viollet-le-Duc had shown in finishing the environment of the cathedral, which, in his opinion, was much superior to the timid attempts in Cologne. He approved of Carcassonne and Aigues-Mortes, but considered Pierrefonds a kind of 'Neronic' fantasy of Napoleon III, and today already 'cold and dry'. Clemen regretted that all seventeenth-century furnishings, especially the carved choir stools, as in Sens, Amiens and in German cathedrals, had been sacrificed to purism in style. He observed, however, that the French had recovered from it earlier than the Germans, and had tried to formulate the principles for restoration with full justice to the historic character of a building. He considered this discussion extremely important for the whole question in order to give healthy reaction against a blind restoration rage. He recalled the recommendation of the French association, the Ami des monuments, i.e., 'Conservation, not restoration!' Later in his life, Clemen moved toward symbolic and strongly nationalistic values as a justification for conservation. This 'confession', as a conclusion of his life's experiences, was published in 1933 (Clemen, 1933).

The economic development in the German states at the end of the nineteenth century, improvement of streets for traffic, private speculation, and the lack of sympathy from the side of higher administrators, were amongst the reasons that caused many towns to lose their historic fabric; Nuremberg was one of those that had still retained its character. In 1899, when Die Denkmalpflege, the new magazine dedicated to conservation, was first published, one of the topics for discussion was: 'Old Nuremberg in Danger' ('Alt-N├╝rnberg in Gefahr', Die Denkmalpflege, I, 1899:6.). The article drew attention to the capital value that the beauty of a historic town represented by bringing in visitors. The same year, in Strasbourg, the main assembly of the Association of German Societies for History and Antiquity made a resolution reminding administrations about their responsibilities towards historic monuments:

The careful preservation and restoration of historic monuments as the most important and most noble testimony of the national past of all peoples requires considerably larger funds than have been available so far. The Congress, therefore, considers indispensable that according to the example of leading cultural states in the field of conservation, there should be everywhere regular sums included in the State budget for this purpose.15

0 0

Post a comment