Denman Waldo Ross (1853-1935) was an American painter, art collector, and scholar of art history and theory. He was a professor of art at Harvard University and a trustee of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Ross completed his undergraduate studies at Harvard University in 1875, and earned his doctorate in political economy from the same institution five years later. He came to be interested in art soon after this, and began teaching courses in design and art theory at Harvard by 1889. Ross would spend much of the rest of his life lecturing on these and related topics, working with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston on their burgeoning Oriental Art department, and traveling the world in search of artworks to add to his personal collection. Ross was also a member of some of Boston's elite inner circles, and is known to have brushed elbows not only with other prominent people associated with the Museum of Fine Arts and the art world, but also with the likes of Louis Brandeis, John Singer Sargent, Joseph Lindon Smith and various members of Boston's most prominent families.
A number of his students at Harvard, the Museum of Fine Arts, and elsewhere he lectured, went on to become prominent artists. Hyman Bloom and Jack Levine were among these.
The collection of objects donated by Ross to the Museum of Fine Arts over the course of his career as a collector covers a wide geographical, chronological, and material diversity. He collected a myriad of European art objects, along with a great many Chinese and Japanese paintings and textiles. Among the many objects in the Denman Waldo Ross collection at the Museum are a stone head from Angkor Wat, a 7th century Chinese scroll painting attributed to Yan Liben, a set of ukiyo-e folding screen paintings of Kyoto's pleasure quarters, and a number of Chinese Buddhist steles and paintings.
Until recently, the study of Chinese textiles revolved around Beijing's imperial palaces, a focal point for interest in Chinese culture after the end of Qing dynasty rule in 1911. In the years before the formal establishment of the Palace Museum within the former Forbidden City in 1925, many court costumes and other textiles were dispersed into collections worldwide. Western scholars took a keen interest in Chinese textiles as they came to know them through these court robes and interior furnishings. In recent years, collections have been technically analyzed and historically documented in studies carried out at the Association pour l'Étude et la Documentation des Textiles d'Asie (AEDTA), Paris; the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto; Hong Kong Museum of Art; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Cleveland Museum of Art; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Phoenix Art Museum; the Chicago Art Institute; and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.