Focus on the Peck Collection: Water in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Landscapes

January 27, 2023 - April 30, 2023

A black chalk drawing of a wooden aqueduct beside a tall tree

During the seventeenth century, the Dutch Republic undertook intensive land reclamation projects using a complex system of dikes and drainage to increase their land mass. This resulted in the creation of new inland lakes, rivers, and a system of canals used for commerce, transportation, and leisure. Looking to the natural world for inspiration, Dutch artists depicted water in all its forms—from broad seascapes to lakes, rivers, canals, and even ditches, often demonstrating the wide range of human activity undertaken on or alongside waterways. This Focus on the Peck Collection installation features works by Esaias van de Velde, Salomon van Ruysdael, and Jacob van Ruisdael, three generations of artists whom each depict an important aspect of water and its uses.



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, followed by 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
Complete Illustrated List of Works in The Peck Collection at the Ackland

Image credit: Jacob van Ruisdael, Dutch, 1628/9-1682, Riverbank with a Wooden Aqueduct and View of a Village, c. 1650, black chalk and gray wash on paper, 6 3⁄16 × 9 3⁄16 in. (15.7 × 23.3 cm). Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Peck Collection, 2017.1.74.