January 2017 may be full of tumult, but it’s brought unexpected windfalls to university museums in the Triangle. Earlier in the month, Duke’s Nasher Museum of Art announced it had been gifted with a major work by Archibald Motley, an acclaimed painter of the African-American Jazz Age experience. And UNC’s Ackland Art Museum in Chapel Hill just announced that it had been given a major collection of Dutch and Flemish drawings, including seven works by Rembrandt van Rijn himself, collected by UNC alumnus Sheldon Peck and his wife, Leena, over the past four decades.
The Peck Collection consists of 134 works of art valued at $17 million. Along with an $8 million endowment that will go toward the hiring of a new curator and the future sustenance and enhancement of the artwork, the gift is the largest the museum has ever received. In acquiring the collection, the Ackland becomes the first public university to own drawings by the Dutch master.
Along with the seven Rembrandts, the Peck Collection comes in three distinct chunks: almost one hundred Dutch landscape and genre drawings from the Dutch Golden Age by the likes of Aelbert Cuyp and Jacob van Goyen; a dozen drawings by Flemish masters including Pieter Paul Rubens; and fifteen drawings from the Netherlands from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. One of the Rembrandts is distinct for bearing the artist’s actual inscription, a rarity that only adds to the fascination of these centuries-old treasures.
Peck has a long-time association with the Ackland, serving on its board and contributing artwork since the late 1980s. But the size and scope of this gift is unprecedented, and it offers the Ackland an unprecedented opportunity. UNC Chancellor Carol L. Folt sees the gift as holding extraordinary value for the university as both a learning tool and a practical asset, saying, “We are honored by the inestimable value of the Pecks’ gift because it advances Carolina’s public mission to serve the people of North Carolina and makes the university a destination for people of all ages from around the world for all time.”