Valued at $17 million, the collection is the largest donation in the history of the Ackland. It contains 134 drawings, including seven drawings by Rembrandt and one of the only existing drawings with notation by Rembrandt.
Peck said the three pieces on display are not only a good summary of his collection, but also help to showcase the abilities of the artists.
“It’s just a marvelous life study to view these works,” he said. “They’re representative of the quality of the masterwork that I associate with each of these artists. It will reward a person who gets up close and after a minute or two says, ‘My god, how did they do it?’ One can finally get a sense of what true genius in art really is.”
Peck said he also thinks today’s art world is influenced by scale and shock value and that his collection may remind audiences of a simpler — but no less powerful — style that is much less prevalent in today’s art community.
“It has to be recognized that in the old days art had nothing to do with size and very little to do with shock,” he said. “It had to do with emotional expression and sheer talent. These drawings represent the best that mankind can do.”
Peter Nisbet, the deputy director for curatorial affairs, said the collection has succeeded in bringing prestige and interest to the Ackland from national institutions as well as within the University.
“It’s attracted a lot of attention from the museum world,” he said. “I’m already getting inquiries about exhibitions we might want to do because we now have the Peck collection. Professors in the art department are already talking about developing courses around these kinds of works.”
Nisbet said he thinks the Peck exhibition will help bring audiences attracted by the big ticket exhibit to the larger Ackland collection.
“You have to have something to offer everyone,” he said. “I do think this addition to the Ackland collection is going to have that very broad appeal.”
Mary Pardo, a professor of art history, said she feels that the collection offers a good mixture of variety for those well acquainted with the art world.
“You get to see a range of graphic strategies at work in these drawings,” she said. “The fact that they fall in a certain arc of time between the 1600s and the 1700s kind of gives you a sense of the kind of development that took place.”
Because the drawings are very fragile and sensitive to light, the museum plans to rotate the drawings displayed every few months.