Past Exhibition: Former Director Charles Ryskamp's Bequest

A Passion for Drawings: Charles Ryskamp's Bequest to The Frick Collection

February 14, 2012 to April 8, 2012

The Frick Collection celebrated the generosity and discerning taste of former Director Charles A. Ryskamp (1928–2010) with an exhibition of works on paper from his bequest. Dr. Ryskamp's generous gift transformed the museum's holdings in drawings, enlarging them by nearly a third, while complementing the permanent collection's focus on the landscape and figural subjects favored by Henry Clay Frick. The works were exhibited for the first time at the Frick in the Cabinet, a space created by Dr. Ryskamp during his tenure as Director from 1987 to 1997 and intended especially for the display of works on paper.

Charles Ryskamp spent more than fifty years assembling an extraordinary personal trove of European drawings. A former professor at Princeton University with an expertise in late neoclassical and Romantic English literature, Dr. Ryskamp was initially attracted to British drawings of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. His collection grew to include examples from a host of periods and schools, with particular strengths in French, German, Dutch, and Danish sheets. He sought drawings that were pleasing to the eye, concentrating on figural works, landscapes, and natural studies, as well as sheets that demonstrated a mastery of technique.

This exhibition presented ten drawings from Dr. Ryskamp's collection, given as a bequest to the Frick following his death at the age of eighty-one. The works were selected by Director Emerita Anne L. Poulet, Deputy Director and Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator Colin B. Bailey, and Senior Curator Susan Grace Galassi. Many other sheets from his collection were donated to The Morgan Library & Museum, where Dr. Ryskamp served as director from 1969 to 1987; others were auctioned at Sotheby's for the benefit of Princeton University.

Three sheets are by artists already represented in The Frick Collection — Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Pierre-Étienne-Théodore Rousseau, and Edgar Degas — while the others were selected for their quality and art historical significance. The installation also included two oil-on-paper studies of clouds by John Constable, which Dr. Ryskamp was instrumental in bringing to the Collection in 2001.

As a scholar and museum professional, Dr. Ryskamp equated the collecting of art with the acquisition of knowledge. The works in his bequest pay tribute to his vibrant intellect, discerning taste, and generous spirit.

Pierre-Joseph Redouté (1759-1840), Plum Branches Intertwined, 1802–4. Watercolor on vellum, 12 1/2 x 10 1/3 in. The Frick Collection, bequest of Charles Ryskamp; photo: Michael Bodycomb

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