Skip to main content

Amy Worthen papers

 Collection — Folder: 1
Identifier: IWA1103

Scope and Contents

The Amy Worthen papers date from 1995 to 2020 and measure 2.5 linear inches (1 box). The papers consist of three folders with material related to Worthen’s work as an artist and member of the Des Moines art community. A Print Council of America newsletter includes an article Worthen wrote about Louise Noun, art collector and co-founder of the Iowa Women’s Archives. The rest of the material relates to specific works of art and exhibitions. There is a press booklet and newspaper clipping about a limited-edition book which Worthen published in 1994, “Sotoporteghi Veneziani;” the set of twelve engravings depict a journey in Venice, Italy. Also included is an artist’s proof of an original engraving of the Iowa state capitol, commissioned by the Iowa Economic Development Authority in celebration of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. Reproductions of the engraving were to be used by Iowa’s foreign trade delegations as official gifts of the state. Finally, an exhibition catalog for Worthen’s 2017 exhibit at the Brunnier Art Museum (Iowa State University) provides an in-depth history and analysis of Worthen’s career and development as an artist, along with many illustrations of her work.


  • Creation: 1995-2020


Conditions Governing Access

The papers are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to the University of Iowa.

Biographical / Historical

Amy Namowitz Worthen was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1943 to Audrey Abramson Namowitz and Samuel Nathaniel Namowitz. Growing up, Namowitz attended art classes at the Museum of Modern Art, Art Students League, and Brooklyn Museum. After graduating from the High School of Music and Art, Namowitz attended Smith College, where she studied with Leonard Baskin, a graphic artist, sculptor, and writer. During that time, Namowitz completed an internship at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and won the Stoeckel Fellowship, which allowed her to attend Yale University Summer School of Art and Music in Norfolk, Connecticut. Namowitz graduated from Smith with a bachelor’s in art in 1967 and completed a master’s in printmaking at the University of Iowa in 1969. In 1968, Namowitz married Thomas Fletcher Worthen while both attended graduate school at University of Iowa. The couple moved to Des Moines in 1970, after Thomas Worthen secured a position teaching art history at Drake University. They went on to have two children: Shana and Maria.

As an artist, Amy Worthen specialized in printmaking and engraving; her prints, which often play on familiar landmarks from her homes in Des Moines, Iowa and Venice, Italy, have been described as “blend[ing] architecture and history with fantasy and humor.” One of her well-known works, “Real and Imagined Aspects of the State Capitol in Des Moines, Iowa,” depicts fanciful scenes in and around the capitol building. Throughout her career as an artist and scholar of printmaking, Worthen also worked as a teacher, curator, and art historian. Worthen taught classes in design, drawing, and art history at Drake University and taught studio classes at the Des Moines Art Center. Prior to her appointment as Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Des Moines Art Center (now Emerita), Worthen collaborated with the Center, the University Museums at Iowa State University, and other institutions to research, curate, and produce catalogs for exhibitions. Worthen has written numerous articles and exhibition catalogs. As an artist, Worthen’s prints have been exhibited across the United States and in Europe and are part of collections at repositories such as the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Des Moines Art Center. In 2017, a major retrospective exhibition of Worthen’s work was held at Brunnier Art Museum at Iowa State University. Worthen became a member of the Print Council of America and the Iowa Sister States.

Worthen and her husband frequently traveled to Europe and spent extensive time in Italy, where they eventually made a second home. In 1989-1990, Worthen was in residence at the Scuola Internazionale di Grafica di Venezia (Venice, Italy) as a visiting artist. The couple spent the year of Thomas Worthen’s sabbatical in Venice in 1993-1994. In the early 2000s, the Worthens began splitting their time between Des Moines and Venice and eventually established legal residency in Italy. Thomas Worthen passed away in 2018.


2.5 linear inches

Language of Materials



Iowa artist and scholar of printmaking whose work engaged with the state capitol in Des Moines.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 605) were donated by Amy Worthen in 2003 and subsequent years.

Heather Cooper, 2021
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Iowa Women's Archives Repository

100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)