Before the books were complete and the subsequent themes of the Corpus published, there were major reforms made to the RRP due to its criticism, inside tension and loss of credibility, starting in the early 1990s. The listings of those paintings the RRP found that are authentic and those they found that are not had come under great controversy, with many people shocked at their findings. Scholars within the RRP had trouble in fulfilling their work, and there were reversals of their findings.
Four members resigned out of the original seven after Ernst van de Wetering complained they were too tough in rejecting paintings. Those members, Josua Bruyn, Bob Haak, Simon Levie and Pieter van Thiel, claimed they were correct in doing so and didn’t agree with Wetering’s findings. Wetering accepted around 320 paintings, while the other members only accepted 250.
Wetering spent most of his working life on the Corpus. When the four members in disagreement resigned, he became the head of the project in 1993 and remained so for nearly 20 years. Including new chairman Wetering, the RRP’s final members were Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann of the New York University, Taco Dibbits of the Rijksmuseum, Peter van de Ploeg of Waanders publishing and Rudi Ekkart of The Netherlands Institute for Art History.
Under Wetering, everything changed. Now instead off reducing the number of Rembrandt paintings, he took paintings that were rejected in the first three volumes, and reintroduced them as authentic in those that followed. New additions were also included to the Corpus. The value of Rembrandt art was going up and down. This subject of great controversy has not been settled, with some saying it odd that it went from being overly exclusive to overly inclusive.
In addition to accepting more paintings, Wetering introduced other reforms to the RRP, including the change in the format of the Corpus from chronological order in the first three volumes to thematic in the fourth and fifth. The proposed book to follow, Volume VI, was to cover the remaining works apart from his portraits and small-scale history paintings.
But the Corpus was never completed, even though it was very near the fulfillment of its mission. In 2011, the RRP board voted to terminate the project even though 80 paintings of the oeuvre had not yet been investigated. They claimed a lack of scholar availability to take over responsibilities from the 72-year-old RRP Chairman Wetering who had decided to retire.
Wetering, who had spent his life working on the project and had become one of the world’s leading experts on Rembrandt as a result, said he did not have another decade of energy to research and write 800 more pages of a detailed catalog for the last 80 works. Additonally, funding had become difficult to receive with most of its money coming from the Netherlands’ Organization for Scientific Research that was cut off in 1998.
Instead, a smaller version will cover the 80 works that have not yet been cataloged, and will contain a summary of 320 paintings Wetering believes are true Rembrandts. That number is broken down into 240 works that have already been cataloged, which have brief entries and references to their earlier volumes, and the 80 uncatalogued paintings that have more in-depth entries.
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