Focus on the Peck Collection

October 27, 2018December 31, 2022

drawing of jugs with carved animals


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. Sadly, Leena Peck passed away in January 2019.


On View

January 24—April 19, 2020

Ancient Spoils of War

In ancient Greece and Rome, it was customary for conquering armies to seize objects of value from defeated foes. This Focus on the Peck Collection installation presents two works of art that feature depictions of ancient Roman spoils of war. The first is a drawing attributed to seventeenth-century Flemish artist Anthony van Dyck that depicts three vessels filled with gold coins. The second is a chiaroscuro woodcut by sixteenth-century Italian artist Andrea Andreani that illustrates a Roman triumphal procession featuring similar looted items. Violently acquired, war “booty” represented both wealth and prestige to those who plundered it.

Focus on the Peck Collection is an ongoing series of installations selected from the Peck Collection and the Ackland’s other holdings of related works of art, with the goal of supporting education in comparative looking, historical analysis, and appreciation of quality.

Focus on the Peck Collection is made possible by the Ackland’s Peck Collection Endowment Fund.


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


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.


Past Installations

25 October 2019—19 January 2020

The Light that Illuminates the Darkness: Drawings of Italian Interiors

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.

26 July—29 September

Thomas Gainsborough and the Dutch Landscape Tradition

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.

26 April—21 July 2019

Rembrandt and His Circle

2019 marks the 350th anniversary of Rembrandt van Rijn’s death (1606-1669), an event celebrated through exhibitions and programs worldwide. The Ackland’s contribution to these festivities is a Focus on the Peck Collection installation featuring three drawings—one created by Rembrandt, one made by a student with Rembrandt’s corrections, and one produced by an unknown follower—that demonstrate both Rembrandt’s skill as a draftsman and teacher and distinguish his drawing style from that of his circle.

25 January—21 April 2019

Susanna and the Elders

The Old Testament apocryphal story of Susanna and the Elders has captivated artists for centuries. In it, a virtuous woman prevails and good triumphs over evil. This installation from the Peck Collection features Willem van Mieris’ beautifully executed Susanna and the Elders drawing alongside two contrasting depictions of the theme, also from the permanent collection. Ranging from the sixteenth to the twentieth century, the Italian, Dutch, and Austrian versions differ in media, technique, and compositional framework, as well as in the level of psychological and physical turmoil depicted.

27 October 2018—20 January 2019

Winter in Dutch Drawings

This installation from The Peck Collection celebrates depictions of the winter season by seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Dutch artists. During this period, northern Europe experienced bitterly cold winters known as the Little Ice Age. Networks of canals, rivers, and lakes throughout the Netherlands froze for months on end, both challenging daily life and offering opportunities for fun and recreation. Extremely popular among artists and patrons, charming portrayals of winter activities like ice skating, sleigh rides, and ice fishing demonstrate how the Dutch embraced the frigid weather with perseverance and joy.

31 August 2018 – 7 October 2018

Regarding Women in the Age of Rembrandt

This installation highlights the variety of approaches to women as subject matter in the medium of drawing by Rembrandt and his contemporaries. Whether a rapid sketch, detailed study, or finished portrait, Dutch artists in the seventeenth century sought new ways to bring forth the character of women in the era.

29 June – 26 August 2018

Esaias van de Velde I and the Birth of Dutch Landscape

This installation, curated by Robert Fucci, the Ackland’s Peck Collection Research Fellow, focuses on works by the Dutch artist Esaias van de Velde I (1587-1630), one of the earliest pioneers to develop realistic and plausible landscape scenes as independent subjects. These works, distinctive in their own right, set the stage for generations of artists who followed. These drawings from the Peck Collection on display are some of his earliest in the United States.

27 April – 24 June 2018

Inspired by the bareness of Thomas Wyck’s Bedroom Interior from the Peck Collection, this installation explores three different approaches to the “empty room.” Though far apart in history and diverse in medium and technique, these images resonate visually with each other. Not only do they lack figures and other iconographic clutter, they each explore similar themes: the tension between light and shadow, the juxtaposition of odd angles and soft curves, and the suggestion of human presence combined with the absence of identity.

23 February – 22 April 2018

The four drawings on display are amongst those studied in detail by undergraduate students in UNC-Chapel Hill’s Department of Art and History in the fall semester of 2017. Fifteen students in the Art History Undergraduate Research Seminar proposed new interpretations and understandings of fifteen of the Peck Collection drawings. The students had many opportunities to view the drawings up close, and they even had the chance to meet and share their findings with Dr. Sheldon Peck, who visited the seminar in October 2017. In their research, the four students whose drawings have been selected for this exhibition made important discoveries.

15 December 2017 – 18 February 2018

The current selection from the Peck Collection demonstrates the broad scope of the artist Cornelis Dusart (1660–1704) in terms of his subjects, media, the function of his works, and dates. Like artistic activity in Haarlem on the whole during the seventeenth century, Dusart maintained an energetic practice, especially in his drawings.

13 October – 10 December 2017

Festive gatherings, village celebrations, lively music, and dancing peasants: revelries were a popular subject in seventeenth-century Dutch art. This installation brought together two drawings from The Peck Collection and two prints that highlighted this theme.

11 August – 8 October 2017

The theme of our third installation of works from The Peck Collection took its cue from one of the drawings by Rembrandt van Rijn: his depiction of the Biblical scene known as “Noli me tangere,” when Mary Magdalene recognizes the voice of the resurrected Jesus, whom she had taken for a gardener, as he tells her not to touch him (John 20:16-17). Accompanying Rembrandt’s rendering of this poignant moment are contrasting versions of the same scene by two other early modern Northern European artists: a woodcut by Albrecht Dürer and a painting by Gerard Seghers.

9 June – 6 August 2017

The second installation from The Peck Collection highlighted the fascination with architectural ruins that was so prevalent in Dutch and Flemish culture of the years around 1600. Whether an evocation of the Roman antiquity or a meditation on the historical fate of native structures, the subjects of the three drawings in this installment are related by the power of images showing decay, damage, and the ravages of time. Importantly, these drawings are also landscapes, setting the deterioration of buildings into the context of vibrant nature.

29 March to 4 June 2017

For the first installation, we selected one drawing from each of the three major areas of the Peck Collection: a drawing by Rembrandt van Rijn, representing 17th-century Dutch art; one by Jacob Jordaens, for 17th-century Flemish art; and one by Henrik van Cranenburgh, for 18th-century Dutch art. In its range of media—from pen and ink to colored chalks to graphite and gray wash—and the variety of subject matter—a genre study, a portrait, and a set of six studies of the same subject—the installation offers a glimpse of the extraordinary depth and quality of the Peck Collection, which will be investigated in an ongoing series of presentations over the coming years.

Image credit: Attributed to Anthony van Dyck, Flemish, 1599-1641, Three Vases, c. 1618, pen and brown ink with black chalk, sheet: 9 × 9 1/4 in. (22.8 × 23.5 cm). The Peck Collection, 2017.1.122.