Professor Walter B. Denny taught at the University of
Massachusetts/Amherst from 1970 to 2023. His primary field of teaching and research is the art and architecture of the Islamic world, in particular the artistic traditions of the Ottoman Turks, Islamic carpets and textiles, and issues of economics and patronage in Islamic art. In addition to curatorships at the Harvard University (1970-2000) and Smith College (2000-2005) art museums, in September of 2002 he was named Charles Grant Ellis Research Associate in Oriental Carpets at The Textile Museum, Washington, DC. In 2013-14 he was the first Nasser David Khalili Visiting Professor of Islamic Art at Queens College, City University of New York. He served as Senior Consultant in the Department of Islamic Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art from 2007 to 2013, and again from 2014 to 2017. In 2011 he received the George Hewitt Myers Award for Lifetime Achievement in Textile Studies from the Textile Museum, Washington. In 2014 he was named University Distinguished Professor of the History of Art and Architecture.

After undergraduate study at Robert College (Istanbul), Grinnell College, the State University of Iowa and Oberlin College, he received his B.A. cum laude from Oberlin in 1964. He pursued graduate study at Istanbul Technical University and Harvard University, receiving his M.A and Ph.D. from Harvard in 1965 and 1971.

He is the author of many publications on Islamic art in general, on the art of the Ottoman Turks, on textile and carpet history, and the arts of the Islamic book. Recent books include Gardens of Paradise: Turkish Tiles 15th-17th Centuries (Istanbul 1998), Anatolian Carpets: Masterpieces from the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Istanbul (Bern, 1999), and Ipek: Ottoman Imperial Silks and Velvets co-authored with Nurhan Atasoy and Louise Mackie (London, 2001). Iznik: La céramique turque et l’art ottoman (Paris, 2004) appeared in English as Iznik: The Artistry of Ottoman Ceramics (Thames & Hudson) and also in German translation (Hirmer) in early 2005. The Sultan's Garden, co-authored with Sumru Belger Krody, appeared in 2012, from The Textile Museum, Washington; and How To Read Islamic Carpets, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Yale University Press, appeared in fall of 2014. His exhibition catalogue The Carpet and the Connoisseur: The James F. Ballard Collection of Oriental Rugs was published in 2016 by the St. Louis Art Museum.

Exhibitions and catalogues include Images of Paradise in Islamic Art (Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, and 4 other museums, 1991-92), Court and Conquest (Equitable Gallery and Kent State Univ. Art Museum, 1998-99; revived at the Brunei Gallery, University of London, early 2001), Reflections of an Ideal World (Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, 1999), Palace of Gold and Light, works from Istanbul’s Topkapı Palace (Washington, San Diego and Fort Lauderdale, 2000-2001), The Classical Tradition in Anatolian Carpets (The Textile Museum, 2002-03), Ottoman Treasures (Birmingham Museum of Art, 2004), and The Sultan's Garden (The Textile Museum, 2012). The Carpet and the Connoisseur was shown at the Saint Louis Art Museum from March to early May, 2016.

Walter’s recent projects in electronic media include the DVD-ROM Art in the Islamic World: Al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait National Museum (2002). He has contributed to the catalogue Masterworks for Learning on CD-ROM from the Allen Art Museum, Oberlin College (1997), and wrote and produced the video Art and the Islamic World for the Middle East Institute, Washington (1995). He was also a contributor to Islam: Empires of Faith, a series aired on PBS in 2001. Thousands of his photographs of Islamic art and architecture are available in digital form to scholars and teachers through ArtStor, a program now associated with JStor. More recently, new photographs and scans of older slides in many different fields have become available through the Digital Scholarship Center in the W.E.B. DuBois Library at UMass/Amherst. Since 2009 he has undertaken extensive new digital photography, including a new digital survey of Istanbul architecture begun in 2014.

He serves or has served on a number of museum and foundation boards and advisory committees in the United States (The Textile Museum, Asia Society, Harvard Art Museums, Institute of Turkish Studies), Europe, and the Middle East. He is currently Chair of the Committee to Visit the Department of Textile Conservation at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

His current projects include a book on carpets, contributions to a number of exhibition and collection catalogues, computer reconstructions of the tile decorations of a number of Ottoman Turkish monuments, two articles on 15th-century carpets, and several exhibitions. He spent the 2012-13 academic year on sabbatical research leave, and the 2013-2014 academic year conducting further research on a Samuel Conti Faculty Fellowship from the University of Massachusetts.

Walter Denny is married to Alice Robbins, a professional musician (Baroque cello and viola da gamba) who teaches at the Five College Early Music Program; he is the father of Matthew James Denny, born in 1988. He retired from a forty-year career as a singer in 2008, but continues as a member of the Board of Directors of Arcadia Players, one of New England's premier Early Music organizations. He lectures frequently in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East, on a broad variety of topics related to Islamic art, museum studies, and East-West issues in European art. After retirement in the summer of 2023 Walter plans to continue his active work as teacher, curator, consultant, and lecturer.

Walter B. Denny
© 2023