Sheldon and Leena Peck are among several notable Boston-area collectors of seventeenth-century Dutch art. Inspired by Konrad Oberhuber at the Fogg Art Museum in 1978, they have assembled a sizable collection of seventeenth-century Dutch drawings that consists primarily of landscapes and drawings of the Rembrandt school. This exhibition and catalogue present forty of their landscape drawings, including sheets by Bartholomeus Breenbergh, Allaert van Everdingen, Hendrik Hondius, Jacob van Ruisdael, Jan Lievens, and Adriaen van de Velde. For the first exhibition from their col-lection, the Pecks have loaned drawings to several museums: the Ackland Art Museum of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art of Cornell University, and the Worcester Art Museum, which is itself an important collection of seventeenth-century Dutch art.
The catalogue contains an introductory essay by Franklin Robinson that provides a descriptive overview of Dutch landscape drawings and a brief discussion of the Dutch Arcadia, hence the title of the exhibition, ‘Fresh Woods and Pastures New’, a line from Milton’s Lycidas. An essay by Sheldon Peck, ‘Is that Drawing Right? Notes on Authenticity and Connoisseurship’, proffers Peck’s personal strategies of connoisseurship. Two additional essays by Theo Laurentius and Dan Kushel draw on their extensive research on paper and the radiographic exposure of watermarks.
The catalogue highlights several of the Pecks’ important acquisitions, such as the Adriaen van de Velde Hut (cat. 34), formerly in the collection of Hans van Leeuwen, one of a series of preparatory drawings for the painting by the same title in the Rijksmuseum; or the Bartholomeus Breenbergh View under an Archway (cat. 3), a vaulted interior with an enchanting view through a threshold to a sunlit glade. The Joris van der Haagen Woods at The Hague (cat. 15) is distinguished by sensitive passages in brown ink added to the finely-worked foliage in chalk and wash. Like other sheets by the artist, it bears an autograph annotation identifying the site as a view of the Haagse Bos. Also notable are the Shipping on a Calm Sea by Abraham de Verwer (cat. 37), and the Ruins of Castle Spangen by Hendrik Hondius (cat. 16) with delicate wash denoting the reflection of the ruins on the moat.
The following are remarks on some of the attributions:
Cat. 17, Jan van Kessel, Wooded Farmstead behind a Wall. The only catalogue entry written by Sheldon Peck (the rest by Franklin Robinson), it contradicts Michiel Plomp’s entry on a compositionally identical version of the drawing in the Teyler Museum by Anthonie Waterloo. While Peck argues that his is the original sheet, datable to about 1665, and the Teyler version a copy by Waterloo from the 1680s, Plomp ascribes the original to Waterloo who was a generation older (Plomp, 1997, cat. 545). The high quality of the Waterloo sheet and conspicuous irregularities in the Peck drawing, such as the mistranslated doorway to the garden enclosure, support Plomp’s chronology.
Cat. 22, Rembrandt, Canal and Boats with a Distant View of Amsterdam. This drawing was sold as ‘attributed to Rembrandt’ at Sotheby’s, New York, 29 January 1997, lot 49, though previously accepted by Benesch (1954-57, no. 1349), who dates it 1654-55, and Royalton-Kisch (1991, fig. 13). Sotheby’s likened it to the Winter Landscape at the Fogg Art Museum (Benesch 845) and to the River or Canal with Wooded Banks in the Louvre (Benesch 1351), but could not find enough support for a solid attribution. Although Franklin Robinson rightly drops the comparison to the Fogg drawing, he upholds the attribution based on the comparable wash in the Louvre sheet. The Peck drawing was rejected by Peter Schatborn after examination in the Rijksprentenkabinet. The transition from fore- to middle-ground is abrupt and the wash unusual, although the lines of the mast are delicately drawn in reed pen.
Cat. 27, Jacob van Ruisdael, Riverbank with a Wooden Aqueduct and View of a Village. This drawing was sold as ‘circle of Ruisdael’ at Sotheby’s, Amsterdam, 11 November 1997, lot 128. Seymour Slive, who calls the attribution ‘marginal’ in his forthcoming catalogue raisonné, draws attention to the ‘broader, coarser and, in parts, more formless’ touch compared to the artist’s group of black chalk drawings datable to 1650-55. Compared to the finer Ruisdael drawing in the Peck collection (cat. 26), which hung beside cat. 27 in the Worcester exhibition, the latter has a vague spatial recession and heavy, unvaried strokes, particularly in the tree and building in the left foreground.
Cat. 39, Cornelis Vroom, Ruins of the Temple of Venus Genetrix and the Forum of Nerva. When George Keyes published this drawing(Master Drawings, 20, 1982, no. 2, pp. 119-20, pl. 10) basing the attribution to Vroom on affinities with the View of the Tomb of Cecilia Metella in Leiden (Keyes, 1975, D17), he discounted Peter Biesboer’s previous rejection of the Leiden sheet (Simiolus, 10, 1978-79, nos. 3-4, p. 210). It seems difficult to reconcile both of these drawings with Vroom’s signed works of a few years later, such as the River Landscapec.1622-23 in the collection of George and Maida Abrams in Boston, with its distinct pen technique of dense lines and dots evocative of the landscape drawings and prints of Willem Buytewech and Jan van de Velde II. Like many of the illustrations in the catalogue, the colour reproduction is misleading, evoking a greater tonal range and warmer palette.