Focus on the Peck Collection: Thomas Gainsborough and the Dutch Landscape Tradition

July 26, 2019 - September 29, 2019

Drawing of High trees by a river with a town in the distance

Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) is best known as one of England’s most successful eighteenth-century portrait painters, but like many of his fellow English artists, he was inspired by seventeenth-century Dutch landscapes. He became passionate about drawing and found lifelong pleasure in depicting the British countryside, fondly recalling his earliest attempts of the subject as his “first imitations of little Dutch Landskips.”

This Focus on the Peck Collection installation places Gainsborough’s Wooded Landscape with Herdsmen and Cattle of around 1780 together with two Dutch landscape drawings by Roelant Roghman and Joris van der Haagen from the Peck Collection, presenting an opportunity to compare the ways in which the English artist adapted earlier Netherlandish themes, motifs, and technique to suit his own drawing style.



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: Roelant Roghman, Dutch, baptized 1627-1692, High Trees by a River with a Town in the Distancec. 1650-55, pen and ink with brown and gray washes on paper, 9 3/4 × 11 3/4 in. (24.7 × 29.9 cm). Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Peck Collection, 2017.1.71.