Archives held at the Hamilton Kerr Institute
Helmut Ruhemann CBE
1891 – 3 May 1973
Helmut Moritz Ruhemann was one of the leading picture restorers of his generation. Born in Berlin, he studied painting at Karlsruhe, Munich and Paris, and during World War One at the Prado, Madrid. He practised as a freelance picture restorer from 1921, before becoming chief restorer in 1929 at the Kaiser Friedrich Museum, Berlin. There he promoted the use of x-rays as an analytical tool and favoured the complete removal of old varnish in cleaning pictures, in contrast to the more conservative approach of some of his contemporaries. He left this position following political changes in Germany in 1933 and later that year came to England where he already had clients among leading London art dealers.
Ruhemann restored paintings for the National Gallery from 1934. He worked on paintings evacuated to Wales from the National Gallery and Tate Gallery in 1939. He was appointed restorer at Glasgow Art Gallery, 1942–4. He lectured at the Courtauld Institute of Art from 1934 and was lecturer in charge of the Technology Department at the Courtauld, 1946–51. He was appointed consultant restorer at the National Gallery in 1946 and Chief Restorer until 1972 under the directorship of Sir Philip Hendy. Towards the end of his career, Ruhemann published his most substantial work, The Cleaning of Paintings, 1968. He was made a CBE in 1968.
The archive consists of notebooks, diaries, conservation reports, photographs and painted samples. More information on Helmut Ruhemann may be found on the National Portrait Gallery listing of British Picture Restorers 1630 – 1950, from where the text above is extracted. Please see our Access Policy for more information on accessing this archive.