Hack Kampmann’s Antiquity

The Temple of Concordia” (March 1886), Agrigento, by Hack Kampmann.

Hack Kampmann (1856-1920) is one of the most renowned Danish pre-modernist architects. He entered the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 1873, and was later responsible for designing several celebrated buildings in Aarhus, including Toldkammeret (1895), the theatre (1900) and the old State Library (1902).

Southwestern corner of the Parthenon cornice (dated to 11 February 1875).

The Danish Art Library has made some fantastic scans available of some of Kampmann’s drawings, several with classical motifs, mostly from his early years at the Academy, and which I reproduce here. Not included in this archive are Kampmann’s extraordinary watercolours from Pompeii, including reconstructions of the House of Cornelius Rufus and the Stabian baths based on his visit in April 1886.

More generally, however, Kampmann’s relationship with classical antiquity was more ambivalent than predecessors such as Christian Hansen (1803-1883) and influenced by other historicists, not least Vilhelm Dahlerup (1836-1907). This is evident from a letter that Kampmann wrote from Berlin in November 1885 (cited here from Nørskov 2008, 87, in my translation):

The architecture that is now put to use throughout the civilised world is born under the bright days and warm sun of the south, and it will never become a real truth  [“rigtig Sandhed”] among us. People would never be able to understand it and relate to it only in ignorance…The earthen huts of the past were better architecture for us northerners than today’s buildings with arches and columns…

It required the nudging of Carl Jacobsen to join him and Ottilia to travel to Greece in spring 1887. Here Kampmann became part of a group of illustrious contemporaries handpicked by Jacobsen, such as the art historian Julius Lange, the archaeologist Sophus Müller, and the Egyptologist Valdemar Schmidt. They travelled from Brindisi to Corfu and then Corinth before arriving in Athens on 16 March. In a letter Kampmann describes his visit to the Athenian acropolis and is frank about his ignorance of its history (cited from Gehl & Soldbro 2015, 232, in my translation):

For me the main interest lies with the Acropolis, the old castle of Athens, with the sadly partly destroyed remains of sanctuaries from a very distant time, the history of which I know nothing about. But if this does such an impression on me, an ignorant animal, and more than anything I have previously seen, which feelings would one have when walking on such sacred places if one came more prepared and knowing about everything that has happened here through the centuries, right up until our days.

Kampmann and the others continued to Delphi and even the mountains of the Peloponnese where by happy incident he ended up recording a contemporary farmhouse at Tripi west of Sparta in some detail (Gehl & Soldbro 2015, 232-4). Although he could not wait to return to Italy, Kampmann used his experiences from Greece when he later became professor at the Academy in 1908, lecturing on the “visual effects of Greek temples.”

This drawing, dated to 1876, appears to be based on an etching by another artist.
Reconstruction of “The Temple of Poseidon“, Paestum (1913, by William Jerndorff, under the supervision of Hack Kampmann)

For more on Kampmann’s use of classical motifs and his travels in the Mediterranean, see Vinnie Nørskov, “Århus Teater: Hack Kampmann og antikken”, in id. (ed.) Antikken i Århus (2008), pp. 84-93, and Elisabeth Gehl & Marie Louise Kampmann Soldbro, Hack Kampmann. Del 1: De unge år belyst gennem tegninger, akvareller og breve (2015).

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.