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Ernst van de Wetering (born 9 March 1938, Hengelo)is a Dutch art historian and an expert on Rembrandt and his work.
Ernst van de Wetering was first trained as an artist at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in The Hague. He received his doctorate in art history from the University of Amsterdam. Since 1968, he has been a member, and is now chairman, of the Rembrandt Research Project. He was art historian on the staff of Amsterdam's Central Research Laboratory for Restoration from 1969 to 1987 and, since 1987, has been full professor of history of art at the University of Amsterdam. He has published extensively on historic painting techniques, as well as in the field of theory and ethics of conservation and restoration.
In 1990, he succeeded Josua Bruyn as chair of the Rembrandt Research Project, the team of scholars that is charged with tracking down Rembrandt's works, authenticating them and, when needed, conserving the paintings. As of 2015, the project has published six volumes on Rembrandt's work, the known Rembrandts, and the techniques used by the painter.
In most of his writing and lectures, Van de Wetering portrays Rembrandt as a painter who struggled to create as many marketable paintings as possible, and whose studio turned out a large number of paintings with varying amounts of work by Rembrandt and his apprentices. He was also able to discover a number of Rembrandt's works which had been repainted by the artist to make them more commercially acceptable.
In 2006, in celebration of Rembrandt's 400th birthday, Van de Wetering was quoted by the Associate Press saying: "My hope for the Rembrandt year would be that somehow we would become free of images, that we look with fresh eyes. So much research has been done, and so little of this research has come to the knowledge of the general public."
Van de Wetering is the voice of dissent when it comes to the significance of light in Dutch 17th-century painting. He doubts that it was a factor at all and says there were as many kinds of light as there were ways of painting. It was not a question of light, he adds, but of a painter's methods and style. He has also written several academic papers debunking the myth that Claude Monet painted only with natural light.
In 2003, Van de Wetering was presented with the Heritage Preservation/College Art Association Joint Award for Distinction in Scholarship and Conservation at Oxford University, where he has been a frequent guest lecturer.
He was Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford for 2002–03.