When Harald Theiss, the head conservator at the Liebieghaus, chose his profession, he was guided by a kind of calling. He thus not only declared war on the monotony that often dominates everyday working life, but also devoted himself to rediscovering lost knowledge.
What moved you to devote your professional life to sculpture?
In a sense, I was predestined to follow this path because I come from Ulm, which in the Middle Ages was a true stronghold of sculptural production. So the town history evidently had a pretty strong influence on my career – however consciously or unconsciously that might have happened. From the very start of my professional life I was involved in projects revolving around sculptures of superb quality. It was a traineeship at the Ulmer Museum that fired the starting shot.
How would you describe a completely normal day on the job?
I don’t really have such a thing as a “completely normal day on the job”. Every day is different, just as every object I deal with is different. Between preparations for exhibitions and research on artistic techniques, monotony doesn’t have a chance. That’s the exciting thing about my work at the Liebieghaus: the projects are extremely versatile.
What’s special about your work as a conservator at the Liebieghaus?
What’s special for me at the Liebieghaus is above all the research into old painting techniques and materials. With the aid of practical experiments and experimental reconstructions, we try to reproduce them as precisely as possible. As a result, we rediscover lost knowledge about these techniques ‒ in very practical terms, for example how old painting materials were made and applied. These research processes are usually very complex and time consuming, but also extremely suspenseful.
Studies in the field of conservation with a special focus on sculpture initially took the certified conservator Harald Theiss from his native Ulm to Dresden and Vienna. His diploma thesis of the year 2000, which he wrote at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, was followed by various commissions as a free-lance certified conservator, for example at the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz in Berlin, the Bayerisches and the Brandenburgisches Landesamt für Denkmalpflege and the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden – Grünes Gewölbe. Theiss was moreover on the team of a project at the Niedersächsisches Landesmuseum Hannover and worked as a conservator in the sculpture department of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg. He has headed conservation at the Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung since the autumn of 2007, in which position he is responsible for the conservation and restoration of the entire museum collection.