The Textile Museum will honor Walter B. Denny as the 2012 recipient of the George Hewitt Myers Award for lifetime achievement in the textile arts. The Myers Award, named for The Textile Museum’s founder and given by the Board of Trustees, is recognized as the highest accolade in the field of textile arts. Denny is a scholar, author, educator and widely recognized expert on Islamic art, ceramics of the Ottoman Empire, and oriental carpets. He is professor of art history and adjunct professor of Middle Eastern studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. The award will be presented during a special reception at the Turkish Embassy Chancery on October 11, 2012 in Washington, D.C.
Previous recipients of the George Hewitt Myers award include scholar and artist Milton Sonday (2011); author and publisher Michael Franses (2010); scholars Mattiebelle Gittinger (2009) and Jon Thompson (2008); collector and philanthropist Lloyd Cotsen (2007); the late Josephine Powell (2006), an ethnographer and photographer; and textile designer Jack Lenor Larsen (2005).
Throughout his fifty-year career, Denny’s research, publications and teaching have helped cement the importance of textiles alongside other media in Islamic art history. In addition to Islamic carpets and textiles, Denny’s specialties include the study of the art and architecture of the Islamic world, in particular the artistic traditions of the Ottoman Turks, Islamic imagery in European art, and issues of economics and patronage in Islamic art. His ability to synthesize expertise from these different areas and draw new, insightful conclusions sets Denny’s scholarship apart from his peers. In recognition of the impact of his research, Denny was awarded the Joseph V. McMullan Award for stewardship and scholarship in Islamic rugs and textiles in 2003 by the Near Eastern Art Research Center. Denny is the co-curator for The Textile Museum’s fall 2012 exhibition “The Sultan’s Garden: The Blossoming of Ottoman Art”. The exhibition, and its accompanying catalog, chronicles how a new floral style in the mid-16th century came to embellish nearly all media produced by the Ottoman court.
Regarding Denny, Bruce P. Baganz, president of The Textile Museum’s Board of Trustees says, “Walter Denny has devoted his career to investigating the arts of the Islamic world – and most importantly highlighting the cultural importance of textiles. In order to appreciate the richness of historical information held by textiles, one must command knowledge not only of art history, but also political, economic and social history. We are honored to have Walter Denny return to co-curate another exhibition with us, and look forward to honoring his compelling scholarship this October.”
Denny began his studies at Robert College in Istanbul developing his lifelong career as a distinguished expert on the culture and history of the region. After graduating from Oberlin College, Denny began graduate studies in the department of Fine Arts at Harvard University. To aid his research in 16th-century Ottoman ceramics, Denny returned to Turkey on a Fulbright Fellowship at the Istanbul Technical University before earning his doctorate in 1970. Since then, Denny has been a faculty member at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and has previously been director for both the Art History department and the Near Eastern Studies department.
“Walter is an art historian with the rare ability to communicate his love and extensive knowledge to a wide range of people. Students, fellow academics, and the public alike can’t help but be captivated,” says Sumru Belger Krody, co-curator of the exhibition “The Sultan’s Garden”.“Walter’s research is always engaging as he constantly draws new connections.”
As an educator for more than forty years, Denny has helped shape today’s rising generation of art historians. However, Denny’s impact also extends far beyond the classroom. Between 1970 and 2000, Denny was the Honorary Curator of Rugs & Textiles at the Harvard University Art Museums, and for the past five years he has been Senior Consultant in the Department of Islamic Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He has curated numerous exhibitions, and often delivers lectures at universities, museums, and cultural centers, and recent publications include “Gardens of Paradise: Ottoman Turkish Tiles of the 15th–17th Centuries” (Istanbul, 1998); “Masterpieces of Anatolian Carpets from the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Istanbul” (Bern, 2001); “Ipek: Imperial Ottoman Silks and Velvets” (London, 2002); and “The Classical Tradition in Anatolian Carpets” (Washington D.C., 2002).
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