Ernst van de Wetering was first trained as an artist at the (Netherlands) 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 2011, the project has published five volumes on Rembrandt’s work, the known Rembrandts, and the techniques used by the painter.
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.”
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.