Sad news from the Netherlands: leading Rembrandt scholar Ernst van der Wetering passed away on August 11 2021 in Amsterdam. Born in 1938, Van der Wetering trained at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague. In 1968 he became an assistant at the Rembrandt Research Project (RRP), a large-scale scientific investigation of Rembrandt’s paintings, aiming to publish a comprehensive study of all the paintings and to resolve the uncertainties surrounding many of the attributions. In 1993, Van der Wetering became chairman of the project after the withdrawal of several of the project’s founders and disagreements over methodology. After more than twenty years as chair, Van der Wetering decided to retire from the project in 2014 with the completion of the sixth and final volume of the Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings. As an indication of the impact of the project, in the early twentieth century there were over 600 works attributed to Rembrandt; the RRP has whittled that down to about 340. The deattributions and reattributions over the project’s long history have not been without controversy; however, the project’s extensive research has resulted in Rembrandt being the most thoroughly studied of all European painters and Rembrandt scholarship amongst the most advanced in the field.
Van der Wetering was also the author of several important monographs on Rembrandt, including Rembrandt: The Painter at Work (Amsterdam University Press, 1997) and Rembrandt: The Painter Thinking (University of California Press, 2016). He was Professor of Art History at the University of Amsterdam, Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford University (2002-2003), and was awarded the Silver Museum Medal of the City of Amsterdam and made a Knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion.