Community members will soon be able to see drawings by renowned Dutch artist Rembrandt van Rijn right on the UNC campus.
From 23 September, visitors to Acland Art Museum can view the new exhibition ‘Bringing to Life: Rembrandt-era Master Drawings in the Peck Collection at Acland Art Museum’.
The exhibition will showcase over 70 17th-century Dutch drawings that form part of the larger Peck Collection, which was donated to Ackland in 2017 by the late Dr. Sheldon and Leena Peck.
“You couldn’t put this collection back together even if you tried,” said Robert Fucci, Peck Collection research associate and visiting curator.
A number of these drawings, created by Rembrandt and his associates, had not been published before. Many viewers consider Rembrandt to be one of the most prolific artists of the era.
Dana Cowen, the Sheldon Peck Curator of Pre-1950 European and American Art at Acland, said that while the entire exhibition was new to the museum, the artists’ work was not.
“We always have a view of a Peck drawing,” Cowan said. “Every three months we have a rotation called ‘Focus on the Peck Collection.’ It’s actually one or two drawings from the Peck Collection juxtaposed with something from our collection in interesting ways.”
Since the drawings are on paper, they are light sensitive and will only be exposed for a short period of time. Cowen said the exhibit will run through Dec. 31 and be displayed at Rembrandt’s house in Amsterdam next spring.
The work includes landscapes, images of individuals and groups in action that depict the humanity of the artists and the environment around them, Cowen said. The pieces were acquired at auction over about 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 historians to work, research and learn more about Dutch drawings, Cowen said.
“With the Sheldons’ gift, it really made us a center for the study of Netherlandish drawing,” Cowan said. “This has greatly increased our collection of this material.”
The drawings, in particular, are special because of the direct and intimate relationship with the artist, Fucci said. He believes there is a sense 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 to the mind of the artist.”
Ann Tonu, a first-year studio art and journalism student, described her initial feelings when she learned about the exhibit as “surreal.” She said she was excited to see it up close and personal.
“To hear that someone like Rembrandt and his art is going to the Acland Art Museum is very cool and exciting because it makes art more accessible,” she said.
Some UNC professors have already studied the drawings from the Peck Collection in their art history courses as sources of engagement and research. Community members can request to view the drawings in a study room if they wish.
Fucci said his biggest hope is that people will come back and see the exhibit again and again.
“Because that means, I think, that artworks continue to inspire. And, you know, it’s an intangible thing, but ultimately it’s what keeps us going,” he said.
Cowen said a number of public programs will accompany the exhibit, including Dutch painting classes for families and children and a concert of Dutch piano and viol music.
Ackland also hosts an “Acktoberfest”, talks from academics and a book club discussion.
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