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Hamilton Kerr Institute

Fitzwilliam Museum
 
News of the death of Herbert Lank, first director of the Hamilton Kerr institute 1974-80

We are sad to announce the death of Herbert Lank, the first director of the Hamilton Kerr Institute (HKI) who died in September 2020. Herbert was born in Berlin in 1925 but settled in England in 1937.

Herbert Lank was apprenticed to Helmut Ruhemann, also from Herbert’s native Berlin, who was formerly the Chief Restorer at the Kaiser Friedrich Museum. In 1949 Herbert joined the staff of the National Gallery as an Assistant Restorer where Ruhemann was now Chief Restorer. He held this post until 1953. Herbert derived much from Ruhemann’s ethics with a new scientific approach to the conservation of paintings. Herbert maintained his own successful business from 1953 working for many clients including the National Trust, the Wallace Collection, The National Gallery and the Fitzwilliam Museum. In 1974 the director of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Michael Jaffé, set up the Hamilton Kerr Institute in collaboration with the University of Cambridge. He invited Herbert to become the first director. Thereafter, all Herbert’s former clients sent work to the HKI. Initially only 3 postgraduate students were admitted each year due to the intense individual teaching required.  In 1980 the London studio of the HKI was set up and Herbert moved back to London, teaching part time at the HKI until 1992.

Herbert leaves an enormous legacy to the Institute. His strong ethics continue to be taught alongside the importance of scientific research. Herbert was one of the pioneers to extol the virtues of minimal and reversible retouching, aesthetic and synthetic varnishes, plus a scientific approach to cleaning. The Institute, renowned for its practical ‘hands on’ approach to pedagogy, has gone from strength to strength and Herbert leaves behind a generation of conservators, who are indebted to his teaching and his approachable manner, now in top conservation positions all over the world. The Institute owes him a great debt of gratitude and the field of painting conservation has lost a major figurehead, admired by all.

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Hamilton Kerr Institute Bulletin Number 6

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