Focus on the Peck Collection: The Light that Illuminates the Darkness: Drawings of Italian Interiors

October 25, 2019 - January 19, 2020

View under an archway or inside a vault

The contrast between light and dark has captivated artists for centuries, providing a powerful means of expression in any composition. This Focus on the Peck Collection installation features three artists that went south to Italy to experience its long history, warm atmosphere, and unique light. Although active during different periods, they each employed a similar use of wash, or diluted ink, to consider how light transforms a space, whether in the shaded inner confines of a large vault, a narrow corridor, or a grand passageway.



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: Bartholomeus Breenbergh, Dutch, 1598-1657, View Under an Archway or Inside a Vault, 1657, pen and brown ink, brown wash, and black chalk, 10 1/4 x 8 7/16 in. (26.1 x 21.5 cm). Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Peck Collection, 2017.1.13.