Focus on the Peck Collection: The Dutch Realist Landscape

October 21, 2022 - January 15, 2023

A sketch of a group of houses with people in the foreground

During the early decades of the seventeenth century in the Netherlands, a new generation of artists active in Haarlem embraced representations of the local environs around them. Sweeping, grandiose, and idealized landscape depictions of the previous century were replaced by simple, intimate, and unpretentious subjects based on direct observation. This Focus on the Peck Collection installation presents the work of three artists who were instrumental in promoting this new landscape style. Two drawings from the Peck Collection by Jan van Goyen and Pieter de Molijn are shown together with a painting by Salomon van Ruysdael. Each river scene shares common elements, such as a low horizon line, trees that punctuate the sky, and human activity in nature, creating a harmonious and realistic impression of the low-lying Dutch landscape.


In January 2017, the Ackland Art Museum received its largest gift to date when Sheldon Peck (UNC-Chapel Hill, BS ’63, DDS ’66) and his wife Leena donated their extraordinary collection of 134 mostly 17th-century Dutch and Flemish master drawings, as well as significant funds for the stewardship of the collection, new acquisitions, and an endowed curatorial position in European and American art before 1950. At least one example from the collection is always on view at the Museum, but because these works of art on paper are light-sensitive, we rotate a select number of drawings with other objects from our permanent collection in an ongoing display called Focus on the Peck Collection. Click below to see past installations.

Focus on the Peck Collection installations


About Sheldon and Leena Peck

Sheldon Peck, a native of Durham, North Carolina, is a double alumnus of the University, receiving his undergraduate degree from Carolina in 1963 and his doctorate from the UNC School of Dentistry in 1966. He and Leena enjoyed distinguished careers as prominent orthodontic specialists and educators in the Boston area.

The Peck Collection started as a collaboration between Sheldon and his late brother Harvey and continued as a joint interest shared with Leena. The result of over 40 years of exceptional connoisseurship, scientifically rigorous analysis, and dedicated pursuit, the Peck Collection stands as an internationally significant achievement. Sadly, Leena Peck passed away in January of 2019, and Sheldon Peck in April of 2021.


Resource Links
Podcast – “Well Said: The Peck Collection”
Video – A Transformational Gift of Art
Video – “The Art and Science of Collecting the Old Masters,” A Talk by Dr. Sheldon Peck, UNC-Chapel Hill, 21 May 2017
UNC Press Release – Gift of The Peck Collection
Legacy Website – Images and Scholarly Information on a Portion of The Peck Collection
Complete Illustrated List of Works in The Peck Collection at the Ackland

Image credit: Jan van Goyen, Dutch, 1596-1656, Figures, Boats, and Cottages on the Banks of an Estuary, 1626, black chalk and gray wash on paper, 5 7/8 × 10 7/16 in. (15 × 26.5 cm). Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Peck Collection, 2017.1.40.