Charles Ryskamp GRD ’56, a long-time collaborator with and friend of the Yale Center for British Art, died from cancer in New York early Friday morning. He was 81 years old.

Ryskamp, a close friend of Paul Mellon, most recently loaned the center his collection of drawings for the exhibition “Varieties of Romantic Experience: Drawings from the Collection of Charles Ryskamp,” currently on display. He also worked with students in the Student Guides program, helping them put together the exhibition “Art in Focus: John Flaxman Modeling the Bust of William Hayley,” which includes many of the pieces he had previously donated to the center.

He was scheduled to give a talk at the center Wednesday titled “Serendipity at Yale or The Less Traveled Road.”

“For most generations than I can count, Charles has been the most valued mentor and teacher, not only at Princeton and Yale and Cambridge, but also in a more informal way to students of many generations young and old,” said Amy Meyers, the center’s director. “He was erudite and knowledgeable in the broadest range of fields of history and culture.”

Ryskamp studied English at Calvin College and went on to complete his doctorate at Yale in 1956. He did further postgraduate study at Pembroke College, Cambridge. Ryskamp later served as a professor of literature at Princeton University and was appointed director of the Morgan Library and Museum. In 1987 he became the director of the Frick Collection in New York City.