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Ackland Art Museum to feature Dutch artist Rembrandt in new exhibit

"Drawn to Life: Master Drawings From the Age of Rembrandt in the Peck Collection" will soon be on display at Ackland Art Museum, pictured here on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022.

Community members will soon be able to see drawings of renowned Dutch artist Rembrandt van Rijn right on UNC's campus. 

Beginning Sept. 23, visitors to the Ackland Art Museum can view the new exhibit “Drawn to Life: Master Drawings from the Age of Rembrandt in the Peck Collection at the Ackland Art Museum.” 

The exhibit will show off over 70 Dutch drawings from the 17th century, which are part of the larger Peck Collection that was donated to the Ackland in 2017 by the late Drs. Sheldon and Leena Peck. 

“You couldn’t put together this collection again if you tried,” Robert Fucci, Peck Collection research fellow and guest curator, said.

A number of these drawings, created by Rembrandt and his associates, were previously unpublished. Rembrandt is considered one of the most prolific artists of the era by many viewers.

Dana Cowen, the Sheldon Peck curator for European and American Art before 1950 at the Ackland, said that though the full exhibit is new to the museum, the artists' work is not new. 

“We always have a Peck drawing on view," Cowen said. "Every three months we have a rotation called the 'Focus on the Peck Collection.' That is basically one or two Peck Collection drawings placed alongside something from our collection in interesting ways."

Because the drawings are on paper, they are light-sensitive and will only be on display for a short period.Cowen said the exhibit will run through Dec. 31 and will be on display at the Rembrandt House in Amsterdam next spring. 

The work features landscapes, images of individuals and groups in action that depict the artists’ humanity and the environment around them, Cowen said. The pieces were acquired at auction over approximately 40 years by the Peck family.

UNC is one of the only public universities to have a collection of Rembrandt drawings. Because of the collection, UNC is a great place for art history scholars to work, research and learn more about Dutch drawings, Cowen said.

“With Sheldons' gift, it's really made us a center for the study of Dutch drawing,” Cowen said. “It has grown our collection of this material immensely.”

Drawings, in particular, are special due to their direct and intimate connection with the artist, Fucci said. He believes that there is a feeling of pride in having the collection at UNC. 

“There's a sense of initial impression, of initial contact," Fucci said. "And there's something immediate about it. That you are, in a sense, more directly connected with the mind of the artist."

An Tonnu, a first-year studying studio art and journalism, described her initial feelings upon learning about the exhibit as “surreal.” She said she was excited to see it up close and personal.

“Hearing that someone like Rembrandt and his art is going to the Ackland Art Museum is very cool and exciting because it makes art more accessible,” she said.

Some UNC professors have already studied the Peck Collection drawings in their art history coursework as sources of engagement and research. Members of the community can request to view the drawings in a study room if they wish.

Fucci said his greatest hope would be people to come back and see the exhibit again and again.

“Because that, to me, says that the artwork continues to inspire. And, you know, it's an intangible thing, but it’s ultimately what keeps us going,” he said. 

Cowen said that a number of public programs will accompany the exhibit, including Dutch drawing classes for families and children and a concert of Dutch keyboard and viol music.

The Ackland is also hosting an "Acktoberfest" celebration, talks from scholars and a book club discussion.


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Emi Maerz

Emi Maerz is a 2023-24 assistant lifestyle editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously covered UNC for the university desk. Emi is a sophomore pursuing a double major in journalism and media and dramatic art.