The gift, the largest ever to the Ackland, includes a hundred and thirty-four works of art — mostly seventeenth-century European masterworks, including seven drawings by Rembrandt; nearly a hundred Dutch landscape, genre, and figural compositions by the likes of Aelbert Cuyp, Jan van Goyen, and Jacob van Ruisdael; and a dozen drawings by Flemish masters such as Pieter Paul Rubens, Jacob Jordaens, and Paul Bril. With the collection, which is worth an estimated $17 million, the Ackland becomes the first public university art museum in the United States to own a group of drawings by Rembrandt.
The gift from the Pecks also includes $8 million to create a Peck Collection Endowment Fund, which will support the conservation, digitization, and cataloging of the collection; and a Sheldon Peck Curatorship Fund, which will support the acquisition of other European and American masterworks created before 1950, as well as a new curator position.
A North Carolina native, Peck received his doctorate from the UNC School of Dentistry in 1966, practiced in Boston and taught developmental biology at the Harvard University School of Dental Medicine for twenty years, and served as an adjunct professor of orthodontics at the UNC School of Dentistry. He has been a member of the Ackland's national advisory board since 1987, and he and his wife are longtime supporters of the museum.
"We are overjoyed with the Pecks' exceptionally generous gift of art, funds for its stewardship, and support for future acquisitions," said Ackland Art Museum director Katie Ziglar. "Thanks to the new curatorial position their endowment also provides, we look forward to organizing a series of special exhibitions focusing on masterworks from the Peck Collection."
"The exceptional vision and profound humanity of the Dutch masters' drawings still have the power to surprise and delight four hundred years after their creation," said Peck. "I hope many will experience the pleasure and awe these works still elicit in me every time I study one. I am thrilled the Ackland, with its distinguished tradition of commitment to the research and exhibition of drawings, will now be the steward of what Leena and I have brought together."